December 17, 2012

Strauser eager to get to Purdue

It's been a crazy past three weeks for John Strauser.

The lineman commitment has seen Purdue fire its head coach and hire another; he's had an in-home visit with the new boss, Darrell Hazell, and Friday, he had a ceremonial signing day at his school, reconfirming his commitment to the Boilermakers.

"It's definitely been a wild couple weeks," said Strauser, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound native of Champaign.

Strauser still has to put the finishing touches on his midyear enrollment papers, but Sunday he signed up for classes. He expects to start attending Jan. 7, on the first day of the spring semester, with roommate - and quarterback commitment - Danny Etling.

Strauser had stuck by his commitment to Purdue after the firing of Hope, and it was solidified by Hazell's in-home visit a couple weeks later.

"The thing that probably solidified it the most was getting a text from my uncle (Paul Cryst), who is the head coach at Pitt, saying that Hazell was a great coach, a great guy," Strauser said. "I know that's a big thing. That was a big reason why I had committed to coach Hope. He had given a thumbs up to Coach Hope and his staff. And now he's given a thumbs up to Coach Hazell; that's pretty important to me because I know family looks out for family.

"But also Coach Hazell coming in. I know he's so busy with Kent State's bowl game and what he's got to do at Purdue right now, with setting up a staff, so for him to take the time to drive over to Champaign to meet with me met a lot. And getting to know him met a lot. When I'm playing for him, I'll always try to bust my ass for him."

Strauser says he liked the message Hazell - and athletic director Morgan Burke - have conveyed, saying the Boilermakers' goal is to get back to Pasadena.

"We want to get back to the Rose Bowl," Strauser said. "We want to get back to what Purdue was with Drew Brees and Matt Light and Rob Ninkovich and Mike Alstott. These last couple years with Coach Hope of back-to-back bowls is a good foundation but we want to keep taking steps forward. That's what he's looking at."

As Strauser puts the final touches on his official scholarship paperwork at Purdue, he'll keep an eye on who Purdue hires as assistants. But he says Hazell is taking the right approach in finding the right guys.

"(He's) taking his time to get good assistants because I think it's key for the coaching staff to mesh and to have the same thought process on certain things," Strauser said. "It's key to take your time and don't feel rushed; I trust he'll get the best staff he can get."

Strauser's whirlwind continues for the next few weeks as he transitions from high school - he attends High School of St. Thomas - and Purdue. His finals start on Tuesday, but Monday he hits another milestone: his last-ever school cafeteria lunch.

"That'll be kind of weird, having 13 years of school lunches then be done," he said laughing. "It's things like that 'wow,' it's kind of growing up. But moving into the dorm room and lacing it up with other Division I athletes, it will hit me even more that I'm in college and no longer a high schooler. It will be a relaxing but sort of crazy Christmas break, with switching schools and all of that."

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