WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue tight end Payne Durham has been battered throughout the 2021 season. He suffered knee, ankle and rib injuries, in addition to sustaining a concussion during the year .
Durham missed three games through injury, but still managed to get back on the pitch, despite not being quite full.
“I was stoned,” Durham said simply.
The time he spent on the sidelines paved the way for Garrett Miller to step in and buy some quality playing time for the Boilermakers. However, Miller also suffered his fair share of injuries and he also missed two games.
But as the year progressed, the duo were part of a regular rotation that helped each other stay healthy throughout the stretch. They played their part in what ended up being a 9-4 season for the program that culminated in a Music City Bowl win.
Durham and Miller are looking to maintain their health during the team’s spring training to create a dynamic tight-end one-two punch for Purdue football in 2022.
“I think we’re two different styles of players, but we do a lot of things well together,” Durham said. “Riding for each other keeps us fresh. Towards the end of the season it was huge for both of us.”
Durham compared himself and Miller to the likes of former Purdue tight ends Brycen Hopkins and Cole Herdman. Together they make a versatile pair in both running and passing play, but their individual strengths and weaknesses complement each other.
“Me and him, we really support each other,” Miller said. “I mean, if I’m tired, or if he’s tired, we really go for each other, we give a break and refresh ourselves so we can do our best. I would say block a little better than him, but he also catches a lot more balls than me.”
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Miller is a tenacious tight-point blocker, which has gotten him in trouble on the court at times. The Round Rock, Texas junior received a handful of unnecessary rough calls last season and will be looking to clean up his technique during spring training and the offseason.
As for Durham, who enters his senior season and his third year as a starter, he continues to take charge of the group. He’s not just a leadership voice for tight ends, but someone the whole team looks up to as well.
“What makes him excel is the fact that he has an infectious personality, he’s a great leader, he plays with great energy,” Ryan Wallace, assistant offensive line coach at Purdue, told About Durham. “But he also takes things to heart and he wants to be really good at everything.”
Durham has steadily improved each season with Purdue, and he now has a chance to prove himself as one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten. Last year, he caught a career-high 45 passes for 467 yards and six touchdowns.
The 6-foot-5 senior rushed for over 100 yards twice in 2021 and capped the year with two touchdown receptions in the team’s 48-45 overtime win over Tennessee at the Music City Bowl.
And with Miller backing him, Purdue can expect plenty of production from the tight end position next season.
“Having two guys like Payne and Garrett is great for us,” Wallace said. “Because I think even the last four games of the year these two guys have been able to play each other and rotate and keep on top of where they’re coming out of games and they’re not beaten.
“And I think that’s going to allow us as a team – as an attack – to extend our season and be more successful.”
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