WEST LAFAYETTE – Patrick Bade likes hitting people. Keep that in mind when wondering why a guy who bagged football for three years, who was getting his college education paid for as a Purdue basketball forward, would give that up for gridiron opportunity.
“I missed the contact,” he says. “It's fun. I love hitting.”
Perhaps this explains Bade's fouling ways in basketball that contributed to a two-year lack of production even when starts came his way, which weren't often.
No matter. Now the 6-6, 227-pound Bade, having officially switched to football earlier this summer, can smack people to his heart's content.
“I think that translates better for me,” he says with a laugh.
Bade has two years to improve that translation, three if he redshirts. The big questions are, can he impact football more than basketball, and what is his upside?
It's too early to tell, coach Danny Hope says.
“He's getting better,” he says. “He was really rusty when he first came out. Football at the position he's playing, there's a lot going on at the line of scrimmage. He hasn't been around that in a while.
“He's gaining more confidence. He's firing off the ball better, putting his face on guys and straining, and learning how to become a physical player again.”
Bade will do that at a smaller size that his listed basketball numbers of 6-8 and 229. He ran a 5.0-second 40-yard dash in July, a good time for a tight end.
“He has some upside,” Hope says. “He has a big body. He moves around well in space. He can develop techniques and skills to play tight end. I want to see him get after it and have a good time. He's doing that.”
As far as playing time this season, Bade said he's hoping for the best.
“It's up to Coach Hope and what he thinks and if he thinks I'm ready. I'm going to keep preparing as if I'm playing every game. Why not? I love it. I'm having a blast.”
What kind of high school football player was Bade? As a junior tight end at Franklin Central, he had 17 catches for 331 yards. He also kicked, making 4-of-5 field goals and 27-of-28 extra points. Boston College and Maryland offered him football scholarships.
But he settled on basketball, didn't play football as a high school senior and played on a pair of Big Ten contenders with Purdue before realizing it wasn't working. In 58 games over two seasons, Bade averaged 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds. His playing time for this season was certain to take a hit with the return of All-America Robbie Hummel and the addition of 6-8 freshman forwards in Jacob Lawson and Donnie Hale.
Still, Bade said he “shocked” basketball coach Matt Painter when he said he wanted to change sports, especially when that meant Bade would have to walk on in football. Bade insists he has no regrets.
“With Rob coming back it really limited my chances of playing this year. Not that I couldn't have done it, but I think I have a better opportunity here. I have a chance and I'm trying to take it and run with it.”
Bade has to run with five other tight ends. Sophomore Gabe Holmes is the projected starter with junior Crosby Wright and junior college transfer Sterling Carter next on the list.
“I don't know if I have a defined role right now,” Bade says. “It's been a while since I played. I'm trying to show what I can do. Hopefully that translates into time on the field.”
As for football's full-contact nature, Bade says playing Big Ten basketball has helped.
“It's brutal in the Big Ten post. That's helped me fight on the line and with blocking. It's helped my quickness and my foot agility. I'm able to run. I'm fine with the conditioning part. You don't have to be quite as conditioned as you do in basketball.”
But you do have to hit.
“I absolutely think I can do it.”