September 1, 2009

Time is near for Elliott

On the eve of the first start of his career, quarterback Joey Elliott claims he'll be as calm as ever when he trots out on the Ross-Ade Stadium field Saturday morning.

Others, however, find that somewhat hard to believe.

"He's always excited," Coach Danny Hope said at Tuesday's teleconference. "That's what makes Joey Joey. He's a lot of fun to be around and he's an extremely high-energy guy.

"Enthusiasm is contagious - it really is - particularly in football. I think that he spreads his enthusiasm to all of his teammates, but he'll be excited for the game. He'll be talking a million miles an hour like he always does."

You'll have to forgive Elliott if he's wound a bit tight on Saturday, considering the wait the Evansville, Ind., native's had to endure to get to this point. In four years, the 6-foot-2, 216-pounder has played in only 10 games, serving primarily as Curtis Painter's longtime backup.

But that extended apprenticeship served to make his path to the top even sweeter, and make the most ordinary tasks seem so much greater. Tuesday morning, for example, he received a text message from a Purdue sports information official, reminding him to attend the weekly teleconference, which has been usual routine for Boilermaker starting quarterbacks over the years.

A few days earlier, as players were being announced at Purdue's preseason banquet, Hope referred to Elliott as Purdue's starter.

"When he said that, it was the first time I had actually heard it," Elliott said. "Some people have said it in the media and press, and a lot of my friends and family believe I'm the starter, but until Saturday we'll have to wait and see."

For that reason, it would seem, Elliott will almost undoubtedly have an extra bounce in his step when he charges out of the locker room and into Ross-Ade vs. Toledo. The last time Elliott admits to being overly emotional about a football game was in 2005, when he came onto the field for the first time as a true freshman.

"I didn't know where I was going, what I was doing," he said of Purdue's '05 opener vs. Akron, "but ever since then, I've kind of followed the same routine that Curtis did. We both go out there and take care of business, not get too hyped before the games, stay even-keel just like most quarterbacks would."

As Purdue's starter, Elliott's a bit of a paradox: He's a fifth-year senior, which makes him a veteran, but he's been only a backup thus far with very limited playing experience. In his 10 games (mostly in mop-up time), Elliott's completed 27-of-49 passes (55.1 percent) for 300 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He's also rushed for 27 yard with a score.

"I feel like I'm a veteran in certain aspects of leading the team," Elliott said, "being around a lot of these guys for such a long time. I feel like Curtis gave me a lot of words of encouragement. I talked to him the other day and he said 'Hey, go out there and have some fun.' It's not going to be any different than what we've been doing in practice."

In practice, Elliott's proven himself to be Purdue's No. 1 signal-caller, with coaches saying he improved as training camp progressed. A shoulder injury, which Elliott suffered vs. Northwestern in Week 7 and likely kept him from making his first career start a week later, is long healed.

Now, he's feeling more at ease with his new role.

"When you're part of a team, you kind of know who the guy is," Elliott said. "It's how you perform on the field and how you're teammates act in the locker room toward you.

"I think I've earned respect from among the players."

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