WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell led the Boilermakers to a victory Saturday over rival Indiana just days after his oldest brother, Sean, died.
The school tweeted a statement from O'Connell on Sunday that announced his brother's death but did not detail the cause.
O'Connell, a sixth-year senior, was 18 of 29 and threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Boilermakers to a 30-16 victory that gave them the Big Ten West Division title. Purdue will face No. 2 Michigan in the Big Ten title game next weekend in Indianapolis.
O'Connell did not speak with reporters following the game.
“My family and I would like to express our gratitude for the love and support we have received over the past few days,” O’Connell said in the statement. “We are deeply saddened to share of the passing of my oldest brother, Sean. Sean was not only one of Purdue football’s biggest fans, but he was a better son, brother and friend. He lit up any room he walked in and all that knew him testify to his contagious joy.”
O’Connell was crying into a towel near the end of the game and did not attend the postgame news conference. Coach Jeff Brohm became emotional when questioned about O'Connell.
“Aidan, he’s got a lot going on right now. I’m not going to say anything,” Brohm said. “So he’s emotional for a lot of reasons. But he played really hard. He stepped up to the plate when his teammates needed him, gave us great effort all year long. It doesn’t matter what’s going on, he gives us great effort and I just think it’s another great story.”
O'Connell began at Purdue as a walk-on and gradually moved his way up the depth chart, repeatedly outplaying higher-rated recruits to become the starter at a school dubbed the “Cradle of Quarterbacks.” He ranks fourth in school history with 65 TD passes after breaking a tie with Kyle Orton (63) on Saturday.
And now he has a chance to give the Boilermakers (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten) their first conference title since 2000, when Drew Brees led Purdue to the Rose Bowl.