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Orton the next great Purdue QB

8/20/2004

Wait for it.

That's all Purdue QB Kyle Orton can do everytime he sits down for an interview. He looks at the faces and sees it coming. He feels it like a blindside blitz.

"So, Kyle, is it tough following Drew Brees?"

"Kyle, how's it feel to finally be stepping out of Drew Brees' shadow?"

"Kyle, talk about what it's like to talk about Drew Brees."

All Orton can do is smile and politely answer the question he's already answered countless times before.

"It happens all the time. Usually it's the first question out of everyone's mouth," Orton said. "But sooner or later, it's going to happen. They're going to ask about Drew Brees."

Hey, it's tough being the guy replacing the guy who owns two NCAA records, 13 Big Ten records, 19 Purdue records and was a two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year as well as a two-time Heisman finalist. Living in Brees' shadow is part of the job description of a Purdue QB. Answering questions about Brees is part of the gig.

But Orton has a plan: Play well enough to make people stop talking about Brees and start talking about Orton.

"We think that Kyle will stay healthy and everything will go well. We think he could be the most productive guy in a single season," said Purdue coach Joe Tiller. "He doesn't have a chance of topping Drew Brees' career record, but he certainly has capabilities and abilities to outperform Drew on a single season."

To put that in perspective, Brees competed 63 percent of his passes (361-of-569) for 3,983 yards and 39 TDs in his best season at Purdue. Adding further perspective -- Brees nearly completed as many passes during that 1998 campaign as Orton attempted last season (361-414).

This year, though, it's Orton's turn. With an inexperienced defense, the Boilermakers will be in plenty of shootouts which means, as Tiller said, Orton and Purdue will "throw the ball 'til we get hot and when we get hot, we're gonna throw it some more."

Not that Orton is worried about it. Following a season where he threw for 2,885 yards and 15 TDs, Orton just did the same things this spring that he's done every other year. He watches film like he watches Seinfeld, which is to say he can't get enough of either. Put it this way, he named his cat Elaine. If it was a male cat, the name would have been Cosmo.

It doesn't stop there. Orton threw so many passes in the offseason that the footballs begged for a day off. He sharpened the touch on one of the strongest arms in the country. He worked with his receivers so much that he knows what moves they'll make before they even think of making them.

"He loves his craft, works hard at his craft and deserves all the success he's having," said Purdue WR Taylor Stubblefield, who is 31 receptions shy of becoming the Big Ten's all-time leading receiver. "I've seen him play with cracked ribs and a broken thumb and while he couldn't do all the things he wanted to do, he still got things done. He's a competitor and you follow a guy like that."

Now there's something Orton probably never saw coming -- someone talking about following him.