June 2, 1998
Football All-America wide receiver Brian Alford (Oak Park, Mich., H.S.) has been named the Purdue Varsity Walk Award winner for 1997-98, as announced by the Purdue Reamer Club. The award, decided near the close of each academic year, is given to the senior varsity student-athlete who has brought the most national recognition to Purdue over the past year.
Alford, a recent third-round draft choice of the NFL's New York Giants, actually excelled in two sports. Besides his football exploits, Alford also won two Big Ten indoor track championships: the 55- and 200-meter dashes.
The Football News first team All-American set numerous school records, and was first team All-Big Ten and the grid team's MVP for the second straight season. He finished his career as the Boilermakers' all-time leader in both pass receiving yards (3,029) and receiving touchdowns (31), and ranked third in pass catches (164). He also ranks among the top eight in Big Ten career TD's, yards and receptions.
Alford snared 63 passes for a school-record 1,228 yards (19.5 yards per reception) and 10 scores in 1997. He twice set the school single-game yardage records with 209 yards against Toledo and 215 versus Minnesota.
Alford was an inspirational comeback story after working hard to successfully regain his academic eligibility after his junior season. He led Purdue to a 9-3 record (nation's second-best turnaround from a 3-8 ledger in 1996), second-place Big Ten tie, final ranking of 15th in the national polls and a victory in the Alamo Bowl. It was the Old Gold and Black's first winning season and bowl appearance since 1984, and highest national finish since 1979.
The high-powered Boilers led the Big Ten in passing and total offense, and ranked seventh in the NCAA in total offense, 13th in passing and 22nd in scoring. Purdue fans took notice in a big way, averaging 51,690 fans per home game, an increase of 14.1 percent over 1996 and the highest average since 1988.