December 27, 2013

Exit Interview: Cody Webster

If there was a bright spot to Purdue's season, it was Cody Webster.

The senior punter was recognized as the Boilermakers' MVP, the Big Ten's Punter-of-the-Year, a first-team All-Conference honoree and a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, honoring the best in the country.

Thursday, we talked to Webster via phone from his family's home in Pennsylvania to get his thoughts on the season, his NFL chances and more.

Gold and Black: What are your reflections of your Purdue career? You probably didn't have as many wins as what you would have liked, but had great individual accomplishments. How do you encapsulate your four years?
"I would say that in the beginning, it was very new to me, something I've never really experienced before. I'm talking about traveling and being around guys from different states, playing in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It was something very new to me, and it all went so fast. It in the beginning, it was fast and blurry, but once junior and senior year came around, it really started slowing down for me. I could finally sink in a lot of the things, so it was very memorable."

Gold and Black: When did you know you were pretty good? When did you start to think it could be a career?
"I would say it would be - no knock on Carson - but it was probably after Carson (Wiggs) left. I kind of was the guy, coming in not only in the specialist group, but punting, as well. I guess it made me better as a punter, coming in and knowing that I had all this on me, the short punts and everything else. It really brought to my attention, I guess, that I need to go out and work harder because at first Carson was the one doing the short kicks. So I had to go out there and worker and prove that I could do it.

"I guess it really wasn't until my junior year that I realized I could kick with some of the guys in the NFL."

Gold and Black: What was the experience like in Orlando at the Ray Guy Award ceremony?
"It was great. I recommend that if you get down there and be around it, that really … it makes you feel good about yourself, knowing that you accomplished some things. I'm kind of sad I can't come back to college and do it another year and try to win. Because I didn't win it.

"But it kind of puts everything into perspective. Purdue doesn't really get that much hype, with the Florida States or the Alabamas, but at the end of the day we were all eating at the same table, talking to the same people. We were all drinking the same water. They're no better than us; I don't know, it's kind of hard to explain it."

Gold and Black: You always like the recognition, right? I don't know if that's a good way to put it.
"Yeah. I always looked at it like I liked being recognized for the things that I did. Like in a job, if you're doing well at your job, you'd like to see a promotion of some sort. Just like kicking, it's not a promotion, but it's just knowing that you're punter-of-the-year or first-team All-Big Ten."

Gold and Black: Did you use slights to motivate yourself?
"Oh yeah, definitely. It's nothing that I dwelled on, but it's something that I kept in the back of my mind and went out there and focused on what I needed to focus on. But it was in my mind that I've got to prove them wrong now."

Gold and Black: What do you think your chances in the NFL are? You're good, but there's only 32 of those spots available.
"Um, it's kind of hard to tell, even right now. I kind of put it in perspective like this for people: There was three people who went down for the Ray Guy Award, two of them were considered All-Americans, which were me and the guy who won it (Tom Hornsey of Memphis). And then me and him, neither of us made it to a senior all-star game. So, it kind of puts it into perspective, nothing is guaranteed.

"I signed with an agent and I put a lot of trust in him. He knows what he's doing. We kind of sat down and there's some teams we're looking to target. So hopefully, everything follows through, and if I don't get drafted at least I'll get picked up as a free agent."

Gold and Black: Now, you are not playing in an all-star game? That seems unusual to me.
"Yeah, you're guess is as good as mine. I kind of talked to my agent about it and he tried all he could, and Coach (Darrell) Hazell tried his best to get me in. But sometimes, it doesn't go your way. Just like with not winning the Ray Guy Award, it helps fight complacency and it helps you keep going out there to push and get better. I kind of relied it back to my junior year when I didn't get first-team All-Big Ten and punter-of-the-year, I came back with that goal of trying to do that and I accomplished that. And now this offseason, I'm going to focus on my weaknesses and maybe why I thought I didn't get in there and get better for the Combine and pro day."

Gold and Black: What do you think those reasons could be?
"You don't ever really know, but maybe it could have had to do with my hang time a little bit. Maybe it was my average. We've talked about it a few times, a lot of people tend to look at the average and not many do at the intangibles. But you really never know. I thought that I was going to win the Ray Guy Award but it turned out to be the other guy. So you really never know."

Gold and Black: Changing directions, what do you think happened to this year's team? Why 1-11?
"It's kind of hard to say. People ask me that a lot. But for me, it's a different situation because I played baseball in the spring, so I really wasn't - it sounds worse than what it was - but I wasn't around the guys and the coaching staff as much as a lot of the kids, the other players. Maybe that could have been a reason.

"I know that we signed Coach Hazell a little bit later than most of the head coaches. … But then at that time, we were in bowl prep and a lot of the guys went home and when we came back all we had was spring ball and in the summer time, the coaches can't be around the players. So there really wasn't a lot of time to really get acclimated with the coaches and their philosophies. But really, it was only the season that we had to get prepared with a lot of the things. We were very young and a lot of the kids don't really understand how to prepare for a collegiate game; to throw that on them with a new coaching staff, you never really know. But I think next year, it will really be a different scenario for the team."

Gold and Black: Were things run a lot differently from the Danny Hope tenure to Hazell's tenure?
"Oh definitely. Each coach brings something different to the table in a positive way. One thing that I've seen is that there was a lot more accountability. I don't know if that was because there was a new coach and a lot of people were trying to impress and get on the good side, or if it was just Coach Hazell and his demeanor, knowing that you have to do well. There were definitely a lot of different things.

"But as you can tell, those don't win games. It really comes back to us, the preparation, being smarter and understanding the game, understanding our playbooks."

Gold and Black: After the Indiana game, Hazell said there were still come guys who hadn't bought it yet to the new system, the new staff. Did you notice that at all, guys being slow to buy in?
"Well, personally I didn't notice it. But that comes with the nature of being a human. I always told people it was like being recruited by Coach Hope, which was like our dad, then the step-dad is coming in and you have to try to come together with him. Some people take the information and run with it, and then some people will fight it. You'll find out that a lot of the guys who fight it didn't play that much."

Gold and Black: You were in a bit of a different situation because you were a senior starter the whole year, but some seniors lost their jobs. Was that a little big difficult for guys?
"Of course, I think it would be frustrating for them. It's just like being recruited out of high school; you're the star of your high school team and playing every rep, then you come to college and you redshirt and don't play at all. People take it different ways. Some might go into the tank and not really give all their effort, and then they really won't see the field. I don't know if that answered the question or not."

Gold and Black: Did you enjoy your baseball experience?
"I did. One thing I didn't want to do was look back and say 'Man, I wish I would have, or could have.' My ERA didn't turn out, I think it was higher than my punt average this year (laughter), but that's all right. I'm not going to complain about it; I had a good time."

Gold and Black: You are not playing this spring, right?
"No, I'm going to focus on training for the Combine and pro day."

Gold and Black: Were you invited to the Combine?
"I'm not sure yet. I think that comes out, I think, soon."

Gold and Black: You have to think you have a good opportunity to get invited there, right?
Webster: "Yeah, I think there are more slots at the Combine than there are in an all-star game, so hopefully."

Gold and Black: What was it like, the specialists, from a coaching point-of-view. Previously, you have a designated assistant coach, and then had a G.A. under Hazell.
"I think it hindered a lot of the younger guys more than it did hurt the older guys. And I say that because when you first come in, you're very raw and you don't really understand. You kind of have the basic concept of kicking, but there's a lot more that goes into it that I really thought Coach (J.B.) Gibboney helped me with when I was younger.

"Bringing Coach (Brian) Mason in, he helped me a lot, but I think it was more just to stay on the path that I was on rather than teaching me some things that are new. For the younger guys, I think it hurt a little bit, not having that coach there all the time. It was almost like we were trying to coach ourselves. There was some pros and cons to that. But for me as an older guy, it was something I liked a little better (under Hazell), because you were able to be involved some of the offensive and defensive things, watch practices and learn what our other teammates were doing."

Gold and Black: We (in the media) obviously were invited to watch practices this season, but couldn't in the past. Were practices structured differently? Certainly, they were for specialists, but what about elsewhere?
"Oh yeah. Like I said with bringing in a new coach, he's always going to have his own things that he thinks will be successful. And one of those obviously is how he structures practice.

"It was a little bit different as a specialist actually, because under Coach Hope, we would have our stretching as a team, whereas under Coach Hazell, you kind of got all your stretching and that done during special teams. So it was actually kind of critical for us to get out early and work on some things and stretch so we could get ready for special teams, because that was always the first or second period."

Gold and Black: General stuff that was ask everyone: If you could predict right now an offensive MVP for next season, who would you select?
"I'm going to go - it was (Robert) Kugler this year - I'll go with a dark horse and say Raheem Mostert."

Gold and Black: That's a little bit of a different pick. Why Mostert?
"Well, I think, Raheem really came on late. I think he'll be worked in a little bit more at running back and it will really show his speed and stretch back there."

Gold and Black: OK, how about a defensive MVP?
"Hum … I want to say - and I hope he doesn't let me down here - I'll say Ryan Russell."

Gold and Black: All right. Now, people have been waiting on Ryan Russell to break out. You feel like it's going to happen next year?
"I think it will."

Gold and Black: Since you're a specialist, I'll ask you for a special teams MVP.
"Oh. OK. I'm going to go with my man Jesse Schmitt. I think he's going to top himself next year and get three fumble recoveries."

Gold and Black: If you could pick a team captain for next year, who would you pick?
"I think Dolapo (Macarthy) is really going to step up next year, grab the bull by the horns and really be a good captain for them."

Gold and Black: Why did Dolapo not play last year?
"Um, I'm not quite sure. I know he had a little injury in the beginning of the year that could have deterred him from getting in there and playing. But other than that, I'm not quite sure."

Gold and Black: So you feel like Purdue can bounce back, recover from 1-11?
"I do. And I was talking to Taylor (Lewan) in Indianapolis about how we didn't have the seasons that we wanted, and he said one thing that you've really got to do is buy in.

"Last year, everyone was still kind of unsure about things, but this year, having that whole full year with the coaching staff and him bringing in some of his recruits, I think a lot of people will start to buy in and it will be a whole different season."

Gold and Black: Rob Henry said that Purdue's program can not win a national championship but could contend for Big Ten championships. What do you think?
"Hum … I think anything is possible, if you buy in. So I would say that it's possible to win a national championship. What they need to do is like I said, just buy in and learn what the coaches want you to do. At the end of the day, if you do what you're supposed to do, then it will all turn out good."

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