Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell had other things on his mind while leading his team to a 30-16 victory over Indiana on Saturday, which sent the Boilermakers to the Big Ten championship game for the first time. It was revealed afterward that O’Connell took the field just days after his brother, Sean, passed away.
A statement was released on O’Connell’s behalf by Purdue on Sunday. In the statement, O’Connell said his brother had a “contagious joy.” It ended with him giving praise to God in the midst of his pain and a reference to the story of Job.
“We trust the Lord to provide strength and hope, and we appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this time,” the statement said. “We say with Job: ‘the Lord give and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'”
A message from Aidan O'Connell and his family.
Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/XDbg2d3bcU
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) November 27, 2022
O’Connell completed 18 of his 29 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns against the Boilermakers’ in-state rival. His first touchdown was a 15-yard strike to tight end Payne Durham that gave Purdue its first lead.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 26, 2022
The second was a 60-yard connection with wide receiver Charlie Jones midway through the fourth quarter.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 26, 2022
Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm praised his quarterback’s perseverance and resilience while speaking to the media Monday.
“I give Aidan a lot of credit,” Brohm said. “He did what he thought was best. He played his heart out for his teammates, and he gave us a great effort.”
A former walk-on in his sixth season with the Boilermakers, O’Connell only played in nine games during his first four years in West Lafayette. He appeared in all but one of the team’s games last season, leading Purdue to a pair of top-five wins and using the attention he received to praise the Lord.
“For the most part, my faith has always been an important part of my life,” he told His Huddle in December. “I haven’t always done a good job of making it a priority. When I was a young Christian, I wasn’t mature and often didn’t live how I knew I should be living. As I’ve matured, I have done a better job of making faith more important. Though I still have work to do, I am working every day to make sure I put God in the driver’s seat.”
Through 11 games this season, O’Connell has thrown for 3,124 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Boilermakers finished the regular season 8-4 (6-3 in conference) and face undefeated Michigan in the Big Ten title game Saturday night. A victory would give Purdue its first Big Ten championship since 2000, and back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time since 1997 and 1998.
After joining the Boilermakers as a walk-on in 2017 and not seeing the field until 2019, O’Connell can look back on his two years of sitting the bench and see how that time deepened his relationship with God.
“My first two years here were pretty low key,” he told Rivals in 2019. “I was kind of doing my own thing. No one really knew about me. I think that was super important to me. In that process, God was showing me my heart and shaping me to become the person I am now. I think I needed those two years to not be in the spotlight.”
O’Connell wants to use football — as well as every other part of his life — to bring glory to God first and foremost.
“My faith has influenced my football career in many different ways,” he told His Huddle. “Really, my faith has influenced every aspect of my life. The goal of a Christian life is to give glory to God in every action you do. Obviously, I fall short of that every day and rely on God’s grace and mercy to cover me. But that doesn’t change my goal of trying to give God glory in every action, and that includes football.”
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