Purdue football’s theme for the 2012 season is “The Train is Coming. Don’t miss it.” The motto pops up on the team’s web site, linking fans to a location to buy tickets. The university bookstore sells the slogan screenprinted in gold on a black t-shirt. It’s also emblazed in black on four pocket schedules, featuring four players.
Landon Feichter doesn’t appear on one, but he should, if not for his play on the field, then due to the fact the he experienced the motto his freshman year as a member of the scout team.
It wasn’t exactly a train coming at him, but it was a Boilermaker, more specifically 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds of tight end Kyle Adams.
“He caught a pass down the middle and he was running right at me. I knew I had to kind of fit him up,” Feichter said. “It was probably one of the harder hits that I’ve received. Just after then I knew if I was able to wake up the next day after being hit like that, I wasn’t too worried about anybody else.”
Feichter got up, returned to practice and Purdue is glad he did. Feichter, a 2010 walk-on, leads the team with 51 tackles and the Big Ten with four interceptions. He’s cashed in on one of those interceptions, returning it 34 yards in the Purdue’s home opener.
His season took off from that point. But the in-game numbers he’s tallying are largely a result of his time getting run over on the scout team.
“It helped a lot. It made me become more physical and be more downhill and try to wrap up and everything,” Feichter said. “Just from a physical standpoint it benefitted a lot.”
Coming out of Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., Feichter weighed 170. Despite earning all-state honors twice, schools didn’t give Feichter much attention. Purdue was the only Division I program giving him any attention. There weren’t many takers overall. The safety peaked Division IAA’s Illinois State, the only other non-DII program.
Feichter chose the more difficult route of walking on at Purdue. His first season with the team, he didn’t experience a single in-game play. But he did bulk up, gaining 20 pounds and he studied. The redshirt sophomore arrived at Purdue a pre-dentistry major and used his intelligence to break down tape.
“He really stood out on the scout team. We’d come in at night time and watch our offense practice against the scout team and it was rare for Landon would (play) wide open,” Purdue head coach Danny Hope said. “He’d play on the scout team like he’d play in a bowl game, that type of game speed. He’s always had the intangibles, the big effort, the wide open reckless play that you want from your players. He just had to learn his plays, get stronger and get experience.”
Feicther was always a hard worker on the field. From high school through his days on the scout team he stood out between the lines. But the jump from special teams players to Big Ten leader in interceptions came in the film room.
“We watched film in the offseason, that’s something I didn’t do a whole lot last year was sit down and watch film,” Feichter said. “But I mean it is amazing how much you can pick up from just doing that.”
The increased studying in one area, led to sacrifices in others.
The commitment to become better on the gridiron sidetracked his dream of becoming a dentist. He learned quickly the chemistry of football and advanced biology classes don’t react well. Football took over his career path. He is now a on a path to be a sports agent.
“It consumes me a lot. Coming in as a freshman I didn’t expect it to be like this, but I love it,” Feichter said. “It’s something that I’ve come to figure out. You do have to go the extra mile, academically because your competitors out in the business world are fueled more on schoolwork and I’m more focusing on football. But at the same time, I don’t have as much time to focus on school. So it was pretty weird to think in high school it was solely academics and coming here was a little change up.”
One way or another, Feichter chose to keep football in his life. He came to Purdue accepting the fact that he’d be a small fish in a big pond, focused on becoming a dentist. In less than three years, he’s become the prize catch of the Big Ten’s ocean of players, looking to follow a path to become sports agent.
But if he keeps seeing the success of this year, he might be needing to hire his own agent in a couple of years.
“Coming in as a walk on, you never really expect it, maybe fourth and fifth year down the road,” Feichter said. “But you know, I knew I came in having no name and that’s just the kind of mentality that I approached it as to make a name for myself.”