Purdue is not generally considered a major college football power. The Boilermakers have claimed just three conference titles since World War II and rank 62nd among the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in all-time victories.
Where the Boilermakers have excelled is in churning out NFL talent, especially at quarterback.
Since the NFL merged with the upstart AFL in 1970, Purdue – often referred to as “The Cradle of Quarterbacks” – has seen its alumni start more games at quarterback in the league than any other school, according to research from Casumo, an online gambling site with researchers based in the United Kingdom. Since the merger, a team has started a former Boilermaker at quarterback 802 times.
Of those 802 starts, more than half come from three players: Drew Brees with 274, the third-most of any quarterback ever (trailing only Tom Brady and Brett Favre), Jim Everett (153) and Bob Griese (119). Griese started an additional 32 games for the Miami Dolphins prior to the merger that aren't counted in the total.
Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer Len Dawson, another Boiler alum, also started 56 games in the NFL after 1970, though he was 35 by then. The AFL great made 103 starts before merger, leading the league in touchdown passes four times and passer rating six times.
“(Purdue being No. 1) is not really necessarily surprising given that you have two Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Griese and Dawson) and another one who's been in the NFL since 2001 and is still going at 41 (Brees),” said Jack Bamfield, one of the researchers who put the numbers together. “I think with those three it kind of makes sense that they're at the top.”
Bamfield went on to note that Purdue is one of only a handful of schools that have produced multiple NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks. There have been 32 quarterbacks enshrined in Canton, Ohio; only Purdue, Oregon (Dan Fouts and Norm Van Brocklin) and Northwestern (Otto Graham and Paddy Driscoll) have two among that group. When Brees reaches the Hall of Fame, the Boilermakers will join Alabama (Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Bart Starr) as the only two schools with three quarterbacks enshrined.
Lest anyone believe that Brees, Griese and Dawson are entirely carrying the load for Purdue, the Boilermakers are also tied for eighth all time (with Ohio State and LSU, which rank second and 12th on the all-time FBS wins list) with 11 quarterbacks having made at least one NFL start, a list that includes Kyle Orton, Mike Phipps and Curtis Painter, who started eight games for the Colts in 2011.
The latest Boilermaker to make his NFL debut under center was David Blough, who started for the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving against the Chicago Bears and finished the year as the starter after Matthew Stafford's back injury.
Blough and Brees are under contract with their current teams through at least the end of the 2021 season, meaning that the Boilermakers' lead in the games started category could grow depending on the health of Brees and Stafford.
Bamfield and other researchers for Casumo have done similar calculations for some English Premier League statistics but have a significant interest in the NFL, as well, even from across the pond.
“I got into (the NFL) around 2006, 2007, when they first started having games in London,” said Bamfield, who is from that city. “I've been to a few games in London and a few games over in the States, as well.”
Notre Dame is also among the top teams in several categories studied by Bamfield and his fellow researchers. The Irish rank third among all teams with 291 alumni playing at least one game in the NFL and sixth in total starts, as those 291 players have been in the lineup more than 9,000 times. Purdue punches above its weight in both categories, as well, ranking 33rd in players with 157 (Indiana is 64th with 91) and 26th in starts with more than 5,200 (the Hoosiers are 79th with about 1,700)
Irish archrival USC tops the list in both categories and also ranks first with 18 quarterbacks getting a start in the NFL.
The Irish are fourth in that latter category with 14, led by Hall of Famer Joe Montana and All-Pro and 1947 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack. Notre Dame trails only USC, Florida and Stanford in quarterback starts.
See the research
To see Casumo's research, click on this URL --