No slowing down Stubblefield

Originally Published: October 5, 2004
By Teddy Greenstein | Special to ESPN.com

When Purdue's Taylor Stubblefield struck a quick Heisman pose on the Notre Dame Stadium sidelines last Saturday, it was not an attempt to pump up his own candidacy.

Although he already has caught 10 touchdown passes this season, Stubblefield isn't stumping for votes -- at least not for himself.

Stubblefield wants to see his quarterback, Kyle Orton, land the prize.

  Can Northwestern contain Michigan's balanced attack? Will injuries finally catch up to the Hawkeyes? Will Michigan State QB Drew Stanton return this season? Our Big Ten notebook answers these questions and more.
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  • "Any time you have a quarterback leading a team (to victory) at Notre Dame and leading the country in (passing) efficiency and touchdowns, there is no choice but to say that he is the front-runner," Stubblefield said. "But the most important thing is that he's the front-runner at the end of the year -- because that will mean we're winning, too.

    "I don't see too many people winning the Heisman going 6-5 or 7-4."

    Like Orton, Stubblefield's individual goals rank a distant second to his team's record.

    With three catches at Penn State Saturday, Stubblefield would become the most prolific receiver in Big Ten history, toppling the mark of 266 set by former teammate John Standeford.

    Stubblefield is also flirting with the NCAA's all-time receptions mark. Another 46 catches and he'll pass Louisville's Arnold Jackson.

    Of the Big Ten record, Stubblefield said: "I know it's coming close. It will be a great feeling when it happens. It will be greater when we win."

    Stubblefield has been a pass magnet since his high school days in Yakima, Wash. But despite being a superlative route runner with great hands, he was never a big-play guy until this season.

    Taylor Stubblefield
    Purdue's Taylor Stubblefield is the Big Ten's all-time leading receiver.
    Asked why Stubblefield had just five touchdown catches entering the year, Purdue offensive coordinator Jim Chaney dead-panned: "Because was horrible his freshman, sophomore and junior years. No, I don't know why, but now we're throwing vertical to him and he's making some plays he didn't make in the past."

    The lack of highlight-caliber catches was one reason Stubblefield has been overlooked during his career. Another reason is more literal -- his lack of size.

    From his first day on campus, Stubblefield has been told he needed to add bulk to his 6-foot frame. He has added 10 pounds but still weighs around 170.

    "Coach Tiller has talked in a lot of interviews about me and John (Standeford) being so weak, yada yada yada," Stubblefield said. "If I had gotten manhandled or if I couldn't get off the line, that would have forced me to get in the weight room and get up to 185. But I've had success at this size, so I haven't had to gain 15 or 20 pounds."

    That will change though, and Stubblefield knows it. Chaney has told him he'll have to bulk up if he hopes to succeed in the NFL.

    "It is difficult for me to gain weight," he said, "but when there's a little more money involved ... "

    Stubblefield, though, doesn't bemoan his lack of size. Asked if he wishes he had the 6-3, 205-pound frame of Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards, Stubblefield said no.

    "I'm not a person who looks at myself and says: 'I wish I had,'" he said. "I'm very thankful for what I do have. I don't have the 'little man' syndrome because I'm not that little."

    Teddy Greenstein covers the Big Ten for the Chicago Tribune.