West Lafayette, home to the Purdue Boilermakers, aka “the cradle of quarterbacks”, helped introduce a new era in the Big Ten under coach Joe Tiller, that being the passing/spread offense. Under Tiller’s tutelage, a lineage of quarterbacks have walked in to Ross-Ade and thrown their way into the school and conference record books. Drew Brees, now a perennial MVP candidate with the New Orleans Saints, proved that “system quarterbacks” can succeed in the NFL…Next in line was Kyle Orton, who finished his 2008 campaign with the Chicago Bears with just under 3,000 yards passing and 18 touchdowns. Next to make his splash as a Joe Tiller disciple is Curtis Painter, who sits in the top ten in the Purdue and Big Ten record books after his four years of service with the Boilermakers - 11,163 yards, 67 touchdowns, 60% completion percentage to name a few highlights. Curtis is now focused on the NFL combine and has been kind enough to offer up some time to discuss his preparation.
Curtis, welcome to the NFL Draft Bible’s player spotlight. I hear you are actually out in California training in preparation for the combine. Is that correct?
Painter: I am. The training facility is located in Irvine, California, right in Orange County. It is Velocity Sports. So that’s where we do primarily most of our speed and strength conditioning-type exercises. And then we will also have a quarterback coach out here that we work with and he’s doing a good job with that and having a great time.
Are you accompanied by other potential NFL hopefuls as well?
Painter: I am. There is about 15 to 20 of us altogether. The other quarterbacks are Mark Sanchez, Patrick White, Tom Brandstater, and Nathan Brown so it’s a good group of quarterbacks you get to go up against every day, develop a nice relationship and friendship with...it’s just fun. It’s a great camaraderie - you get to push each other every day and make great friends in the process.
With Sanchez there, White there, Brandstater there, you pretty much have three different types of quarterbacks you can compare yourself to. I don’t think you’d want to compare yourself as the runner that Pat White is, but it must be fun to size yourself up to all the different styles that are getting ready for the pros.
Painter: Yeah, it really is. You have guys like Mark [Sanchez] and Pat [White] who are very highly respected at the next level and it’s great going up against them and some of the other guys you go against and hear about. So it’s great to get a chance to meet them. It’s really fun, you get to go out and compete and develop friendships, which is just great.
So while you are out there, they must have you running a little bit. We have you listed at around 6’2.5”, 222 lbs. Is that still accurate or have you shaved a few pounds off in the hot sun running around doing sprint drills?
Painter: That’s about right, right around 220. And that’s about right – 6’2.5”-6’3”.
Would you consider that a good fighting weight for you, 220?
Painter: Yeah, I think so. I think personally I feel the best right around that weight. I’ve been a little heavier, I’ve been a little lighter, and I think right around there is a really good weight for me. It still allows me to move around fairly well and also to be able to take some hits with a little bit of size. I am pretty happy where I am in that respect.
Do you have specific goals for your 40-time when you get to the combine, anything you’d like to hit that says, “this is good enough” or “puts me in a good range for where I’d like to be”?
Painter: I would like to be in the high 4.8’s, right around there. I think that would be a respectable time for myself. I don’t think I am going to be the fastest guy or the quickest guy there, but just being able to go out there and compete and show I have a certain amount of ability you may not see much on film, because I am more of a pocket passer.
Are you planning on doing all the drills at the combine?
Painter: I am. I think the only one the quarterbacks don’t have to do is the bench press, so I won’t be doing that. But all the others I will be doing, I’ll be competing and I really look forward to that.
Now you have to have, with your buddies, thrown 225 on the bench back in West Lafayette. Can you give us a little insight there?
Painter: My best was 21. I did that, I believe, the last summer or last spring during workouts back in Purdue. Haven’t done it since…still working on strength out here now.
What else are you doing to prepare for the combine. Obviously, as you said, it’s throwing more so than running…and from our view, from the outside looking in, it seems like passing drills and interviews would be the keys as far as impressing the scouts. So what are you doing to prepare?
Painter: You’re exactly right, I think the passing drills will be a huge part of it and that’s obviously what we do a lot of on the field. I think it’s great we have so many quarterbacks from so many different systems here, because when we sit down and do some film sessions and get up on the board with each other, you get a lot of different things from different teams across the nation. The interview process is big for us, just being able to get up on the board and talk about your offense and what you know, and just being confident about it, going through these interviews and really exposing yourself and showing them what you know and what you are capable of, football-wise. That’s definitely a huge aspect some people may overlook – they just see what’s on the field and what people produce, but it’s a lot of stuff in the film room.
Absolutely, and I think for quarterbacks that’s essential. I remember I read an article about Drew Brees, and it was talking about some of the training exercises he does – where he is balancing on one ball and has a playing card thrown at him and the guy training him will throw out a defense and he [Brees] has to give him the play that should be called to go against that perfect defense. Obviously the mental acuity, the sharpness has to be there. So you think you have that? What’s in the water in West Lafayette that allows a Brees or an Orton - seemingly everyone under Joe Tiller - to come in from that “college-based spread offense” and be successful? What is it about that training or that offense that has given you that edge?
Painter: I think part of it is that obviously these are two great quarterbacks and would be successful anywhere. The offense there [Purdue] is one that allows the game to kind of be in the quarterback’s hands. We’re the type of offense that's going to spread the ball around and get it to a lot of receivers. And I think with that and a balanced running game, it really provides an opportunity for us to be successful. I think that I was very fortunate to get the chance to have some experience early on in my career and start from an early age, and that really helped me in my process of developing that experience level and that continued into my junior and senior year.
What would you say would be your best throws? I would assume from the offense you came from, a lot of 3 to 5-step drops, four receivers running patters – do you have any particular patterns you feel you have mastered?
Painter: You’re right. We do a lot of what we call “quick games”, which is a lot of three-step drops and getting the ball out fast – a lot of slants and short out routes. I think those are two throws I do fairly well. And then, on our five-steps, we do a lot of deeper outs, skinny posts, routes like that. You always have the curls and the digs, I think I throw those fairly well. Our offense is like that – we’ll throw some quick, we’ll throw some deep and right in the middle there, and then we’ll hit you with the long one. I think that’s what’s great about our offense – it’s just very balanced and really unpredictable in a lot of ways.
Do you think there is any offensive system/strategy in the pros that meshes really well with what you’ve done under Coach Tiller at Purdue?
Painter: Since I’ve been at Purdue we’ve been testing a few different things, a few different looks – we’ve done a little of the option game, we’ve spread it out, that’s pretty normal for us, we’ve had the ability to go to a double tight-end set, which is considered a pro-style offense. So I think just doing a lot of different things through my entire career, when I’ve talked about experience and getting in a lot of games, I guess that kind of helps me be a little more well-rounded. I'd like to think I can step in to any system with a little experience from college and hopefully be able to be successful and make an impact.
How’s the shoulder doing?
Painter: Doing good. Had the injury right there towards the end of the season. I think it was really big for me to be able to come back, play the last two games, and I think, play very well. I think my arm felt great. It was very big for me to just get back and show teams, show people it wasn’t an injury that would nag me or continue on. So it’s feeling great, back to normal and I'm happy about that obviously.
Well I think judging by how you finished up the season even though it was disappointing, I think you came out and you took it out on your rival, Indiana. They felt the pain of your healthy shoulder, what did you have, five touchdowns that game, 450 yards?
Painter: It was a fun game for us after a season we really didn’t expect or obviously want, but I think you got to give our team some credit. We fought hard even in the Iowa game, we were down by a few touchdowns and we fought hard to get back, to give ourselves a chance to win the game. The IU game, we played well and I think that’s a testament to our team - after a frustrating season, we were able to come back, play well, and end it on the right note.
That was one of the things I wanted to try and glean from you – obviously your season didn’t pan out how you would have wanted it, so do you feel there is anything you can turn into a positive about your senior campaign, personally or as a team, so that anyone that’s been watching you can look beyond the statistics from 2008?
Painter: I think the big thing is that it’s not so much what goes on on the field but it’s just going through that type of season, the stresses of being in some games and losing them, and obviously the injury. You go through a lot, you learn a lot, you build a lot of character just going through it. And I think that, touching on our team, we learned a great deal going through the season and just continuing to fight, and staying positive. We were able to close out the season and I think a lot of teams after a few losses would hang their heads and let the rest of the season go down, but we were able to fight back and end it on a good note. I think you can say that about each person, including myself. I really learned a lot about character and what it’s like going through a tough season.
Have you had conversations with Drew Brees or Kyle Orton about coming into the NFL after your years at Purdue? If so, have they given you any pointers ?
Painter: I probably have a little closer relationship with Kyle because I was there my true freshman year while he was there his senior year. So I know Kyle fairly well and I have talked to him a few times. He just gave me some advice early on, before I got out training, and everything just about the whole process. He gave me a lot of information about what would go on in the next few months and I think that really helped out. It’s great to have those types of people. Drew is obviously just a great guy and a great person to mirror. He’s very successful, did a lot of great things while he was at Purdue and now in the NFL. He’s certainly a person you would like to model yourself after and I guess strive to be like.
Anyone you are looking forward to playing against at the next level?
Painter: Not really. I think more than anything it would be fun to meet up with past teammates. There are a few guys on teams throughout the league and guys I haven’t seen in a while. It would be great to play against them. And now some of the guys I met here, it’s been a great opportunity to meet a lot of guys and I think that will be fun when we get to compete against those guys.
Well, Curtis, thank you. All the best down at the combine. I will possibly run in to you - I’ll be down there towards the end of the week through the weekend, so all the best in your training until then and good luck once the draft hits.
Painter: Great. Thank you very much, thanks for having me.
Photo Credit: Purdue University Sports Information