WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (GoldandBlack.com) - There've been few NFL seasons like 2009 for formerBoilermakers.
Purdue had two starters at quarterback, plus a third as abackup, with all three teams starting the year with matching 6-0seasons. One of them, Drew Brees, guided New Orleans to a SuperBowl win in its first-ever appearance, and became the game's MVPafterward.
Drew Brees tosses out beads at the Saints' celebrationparade.
Several others, like Anthony Spencer, Ray Edwards and DustinKeller had breakout seasons that would lead many to believe thateven greater days are ahead. And Bernard Pollard gained someredemption this season after latching on with a neworganization.
Below, GoldandBlack.com takes a look back at 2009, ranking thetop-seven NFL Boilers.
1. Drew Brees • Quarterback • New Orleans
2009 Season Stats: 363-514 (70.6%) for 4,388 yards, 34 TDs /11 int., 109.6 QB rating in 15 games (15 starts)
Playoff Stats: 72-102 (70.6%) for 732 yards, 8 TDs / 0 int.,117.0 QB rating in three games (three starts)
Reason For The Ranking: Duh.
After leading the Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl win, andbeing named MVP after tossing for 288 yards and two touchdownsagainst Indianapolis, Brees might be No. 1 on a league-wide pollright now, let alone on one featuring only former Boilers.
Brees, who was named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time (hissecond as a starter, although he did not participate) and washonored as the FedEx Air Player-of-the-Year, set an NFL record witha 70.6 completion percentage.
He has vaulted himself into the conversation as one of the topquarterbacks in the league, and deservedly so. During the last fourseasons, he ranks statistically above Indianapolis' Peyton Manningand New England's Tom Brady in nearly all passing categories, andnow has a ring (like those two) to show for it as well.
Plus, Brees captivated a national audience on Super Bowl Sunday,showing emotional seldom seen from athletes while hoisting his son,Baylen, high into the sky during the trophy presentation. One mightguess that ensuing appearances on Dave Letterman, Ellen and Oprahmight be only the start of more regular national appearances forPurdue's favorite son.
2. Bernard Pollard • Strong Safety • Houston
2009 Season Stats: 102 tackles, 1.5 sacks, four int., sevenpasses defensed, one forced fumble (FF) in 13 games (13 starts)
Playoff Stats: None
Reason For The Ranking: Pollard's season began with about asbig a thud as a player could imagine, as the former Kansas Citystarter was cut by the Chiefs near the end of training camp.
But a change of scenery worked out well for the former Boiler,as he landed in Houston in Week 4 and quickly established himselfas a force in the Texans' secondary and became a fan favorite aswell.
Although angered by Kansas City's decision to let him go, andits allegedly private comments that his attitude was a detriment,perhaps it served as a wake-up call. Pollard, though previously tobe vulnerable against the pass, shored up in that area, finishingthe season with a career-high four interceptions, plus seven otherbreakups.
Anthony Spencer had six regular-season sacks, including thisone on Brees.
3. Anthony Spencer • Outside Linebacker • Dallas
2009 Season Stats: 67 tackles, six sacks, seven passesdefensed, one int., two FF in 16 games (16 starts)
Playoff Stats: 12 tackles, two sacks, one pass defensed intwo games (two starts)
Reason For The Ranking: Had a poll been taken mid-way throughthe season, there's no way Spencer would have come close to thetop-seven. But he turned it on in the second half, becoming theplayer the Cowboys thought they drafted with their first-roundselection a few years ago.
All six of Spencer's sacks came in the last six weeks of theregular-season, as the first-year full-time starter finally lookedacclimated to his position switch; he had been a defensive end atPurdue. Plus, he collected two more sacks in the playoffs, teamingwith DeMarcus Ware to give Dallas one of the best sets of outsidelinebackers in the league.
If Spencer keeps up the pace next season - provided he stayshealthy, which was a concern during his first two seasons - then hecould be looking at an All-Pro-type year.
4. Ray Edwards • Defensive End • Minnesota
2009 Season Stats: 51 tackles, 8.5 sacks, two passesdefensed, one FF in 16 games (16 starts)
Playoff Stats: Eight tackles, four sacks, two FF in two games(two starts)
Reason For The Ranking: The lesser of Minnesota's startingdefensive ends - Jared Allen has the No. 1 spot - Edwards came intohis own this season.
Two years removed now from his suspension for using a bannedsubstance, the fourth-year pro recorded a career-high in sacks,then added four more during the playoffs, including three in alittle more than a half vs. Dallas, for good measure.
The outspoken Edwards might not be the most popular of formerBoilermakers, due to his unceremonious departure from theUniversity following his junior season, but his development as anNFL player is hard to deny.
Dustin Keller scored three touchdowns in
the playoffs,including this one vs. Indy in the AFC Championship.
5. Shaun Phillips • Outside Linebacker • SanDiego
2009 Season Stats: 59 tackles, seven sacks, three passesdefensed, seven FF in 16 games (16 starts)
Playoff Stats: Six tackles in one game (one start)
Reason For The Ranking: Phillips has long played in theshadow of the other Shawne who's an outside linebacker for theChargers.
But this season, Phillips did as well as he could to break intothe limelight, as he outdistanced Merriman by three sacks and 23tackles. The former Purdue defensive end was a turnover machine in2009 also, as his seven forced fumbles was an NFL-high and set aChargers' franchise record.
6. Dustin Keller • Tight End • New York Jets
2009 Season Stats: 45 rec., 522 yards, 2 TDs; one carry,seven yards in 16 games (12 starts)
Playoff Stats: 12 rec., 181 yards, 3 TDs in three games (onestart)
Reason For The Ranking: Keller's season numbers might be alittle lower than what was expected of the second-year Jet. Butconsider his circumstances: He was receiving passes from a rookiequarterback who had only limited starting experienced incollege.
But as Mark Sanchez grew, so did the results of Keller. As NewYork made its surprising run in the playoffs, Keller was a focalpoint of the offense, collecting three touchdowns, one in each ofthe Jets' playoff games. He was a big-play threat too, averagingbetter than 15 yards per reception.
7. Kyle Orton • Quarterback • Denver
2009 Season Stats: 336-541 (62.1%) for 3,802 yards, 21 TDs /12 int., 86.8 QB rating in 16 games (15 starts)
Playoff Stats: None
Reason For The Ranking: The Broncos' second-half collapseshouldn't take away from what Orton accomplished in his first fullseason in Denver. The former Bear was the 14th-rated passer in theNFL and his 3,800 yards was the league's 11th highest.
Had Orton not injured his ankle vs. Washington in Week 10, hisindividual numbers would have been even better, and perhaps theBroncos would have been a couple wins improved as well.
A documentary centered around education reform is set to premiere this week.
The White County Fire Department pulls a man from Lake Shafer.
Franciscan Saint Elizabeth Health will now accept two insurance providers' plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.