October 21, 1998
By Brian Remsberg, Purdue Athletic Public Relations Student Assistant
He took a round about way of getting to Purdue, but senior safety Billy Gustin has found himself a home in the Boilermaker secondary. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., product began his collegiate career at Boston College in 1994. Gustin was redshirted his first year, then started six games in 1995 for the Eagles.
Gustin transferred to the Georgia Military College because of a new coaching staff that was coming to BC in the fall of 1996. Gustin wanted to transfer to a junior college so he could step in and play right away. He had a great season, leading the team with 55 tackles to go with five interceptions, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and four blocked punts.
Having such a great season gave Gustin the opportunity to be recruited again. "It was just like being in high school again," Gustin says. Along with Purdue, several other large schools, including California, Indiana and Mississippi State, showed a major interest in Gustin. "I chose Purdue because it was a place where I thought I could step right in and contribute right away," Gustin says.
When fall practice was over in 1997, Gustin emerged as the starting free safety for Purdue. However, he broke his collarbone in the third quarter of the first game against Toledo. "I was hurt more mentally than physically," Gustin says. "All the work I did to get here and basically miss the rest of the season, it hurt." He did return for the final five games, playing as a reserve and recording 14 tackles and one interception. Still, Gustin admits that he was rusty and never really did feel 100 percent.
In the offseason, Gustin worked harder than ever to regain his strength and his starting spot as a free safety. "I stayed here all summer and lifted, ran and got in the best shape of my life," he says. "This is my last go-around, and I wanted to make sure that my body was in the best condition possible."
The hard work has paid off for Gustin. Through the Oct. 17 game at Penn State, Gustin, who wears No. 5, tops the team with five pass breakups. He ranks fifth on the squad with 35 tackles and has one interception. On Sept. 19 against Central Florida, Gustin teamed up with junior cornerback Mike Hawthorne on the national highlight reels. Hawthorne picked off a Daunte Culpepper pass in the end zone and ran it back to the Golden Knights 35-yard line, where he lateralled to Gustin, who finished off the play going the final 35 yards for his first touchdown in college.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Gustin is majoring in law and society and will graduate with a psychology minor. "In 10 years I can see myself working with federal law, DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) or ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms)," Gustin says. "I've got a couple of uncles who do that. It's something where I can go to work everyday and see different things. I don't have to sit behind a desk."
Purdue, 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten, looks to get back on track Saturday against Illinois 2-5 (1-3). Gustin hopes to raise some big cheers from the expected Homecoming crowd of 55,000 at Ross-Ade Stadium.