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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 54 2018 Special Teams Preview BY KYLE CHARTERS J oe Schopper still longs for the good ole days. It was junior year of high school at Cathedral when he got a spot start at safety — he was a back- up DB, and the punter, for the Irish — against arch rival Chatard. His assignment was fairly straightforward: Read the Trojans' tight end and if he blocks, then attack the run. If he runs a route, cover him. Either way, Schopper got plenty of opportunities to tackle, a skill that he excels in. "He was not your traditional kicker," said Adam Barth, Cathedral's ninth-year defensive coordinator. "He was very athletic, had good feet, was able to tackle. It's kind of funny, I even sent him a (message) last year, when he was laying some boom sticks out there. I was giving him a hard time about his tackling, which was pretty good for a punter. We saw a lot of that here." Schopper's athleticism paid off for the Irish back then, the same as it is for the Boilermakers now. It's showing up at Purdue in more than his tackling, although he did have three takedowns in the opener last season vs. Louis- ville. More noteworthy, though, he also converted four fake punts for first downs in 2017: A 13-yard rush at Rutgers, a drawn pass interference against Nebraska, and complet- ed 22-yard passes to Ben Makowski, the long-snapper, and Mike Little, a cornerback, vs. Northwestern and Indiana, respectively. "With all my heart, I love punting, but it's fun to be able to get out on the field and do something else, especially something that will help the team in a different way," he said. "It's fun to just run out on the field and you have something in your mind, and the other team has no idea what's coming. That's something special." It was early last season when Purdue started to notice that it might have something more in Schopper, a poten- tial special teams secret weapon, rather than an ordinary punter. In the opener, he tripped up Louisville All-Amer- ica cornerback and punt returner Jaire Alexander, who also ended up injured on the play, after a blocked field goal attempt. He had two other tackles on punt coverage, A Not-So-Secret Weapon Schopper more than a punter for Purdue Photo by Tom Campbell

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