December 7, 2011
Homecoming for Siller
Unlike most other Boilermakers, Justin Siller will spend his holiday at home.
The Detroit native's career, which has taken several turns, will come full circle, as he plays his final Purdue game in the Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field, where he played several games as a prep quarterback and where he watched from the sideline as a redshirting freshman in the Boilermakers' last bowl in 2007.
Siller, who's played three positions at Purdue and had to sit out a season due to an academic-related University suspension, says a victory in his hometown would mean a lot.
"My career's been up and down," he said, "and there've been some things that I'm not so proud of and things I am proud of. Ending with a W in Detroit would be an experience I could cherish the rest of my life, especially with having all my friends and family there."
Siller says he expects about 20 close friends and relatives in the stands at Ford Field. He's played at the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions before, as his St. Mary's High School team played several league championships on the artificial turf.
"Back then, it was newer, recently built," he said of the facility. "It was very fun and had some great experiences with my high school teammates and hoping to build some more with my college teammates."
Siller, who's in his second season as a full-time wide receiver at Purdue, hopes to be a large part of the game plan against Western Michigan, the Boilers' bowl opponent on Dec. 27. It seems, almost mirroring his career path, that Siller's either had a big role, or little at all, in games this season.
He didn't catch a ball vs. Iowa in Week 11, and had only one reception for zero yards against Wisconsin two weeks earlier. But in others, he's shined. Like against Indiana in the season finale, when he led the Boilers with five receptions for 43 yards, plus had eight yards rushing out of the Wildcat, which he commanded for a dozen or so second-half snaps.
The former QB - as a first-time starter there in 2008, he passed for 266 yards and rushed for 77 more, with a total of four touchdowns, in a win over Michigan - likes being a big part of the action. But he's learned to understand when he's not.
"Being a quarterback my entire career, you're used to touching the ball every play," said Siller, who led Purdue with 45 catches this season, for 430 yards and a touchdown. "At receiver, it changes. Sometimes certain teams will give coverages that allow you to get a lot of touches, or be targeted a lot, and some play coverage where you don't.
"It comes with the territory and I've learned to get past that. I'm old enough to know the ball's not always going to come your way. There's no need to pout or anything; you can still help your team win by blocking, knowing your assignments or running your guy off in coverage so someone else will get open."
That said, Siller wouldn't mind being having a large role vs. the Broncos. That might depend on how much Purdue employs the Wildcat.
"You never know," he said. "(Offensive coordinator Gary) Nord sort of takes that by ear. It's always available, but he always sees how the game is going and he does a good job of calling stuff when needed and getting the ball in certain people's hands in the right situation. It's totally up to Coach Nord, and I trust that he'll do a great job."
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