Family, faith and whole lot of toughness fueled Anthrop's quick return
A lucky penny.
That’s how Purdue receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard describes Jackson Anthrop. Shephard is comforted to have No. 33 back on the field after the fifth-year senior underwent shoulder surgery following a training camp injury.
“When he's in the game, you know for sure he understands exactly what we're trying to accomplish with each and every play that's being called out there,” said Shephard.”
Anthrop made two catches for 11 yards vs. Northwestern last Saturday in a debut a few weeks ago that may have seemed unlikely after the injury.
"It felt good," said Anthrop. "Early on, I know Coach was trying to get me in early just to get comfortable. But just being out there and being with everybody, it was a really good feeling. I think (brother) Dru is in town, along with (brother) Jade was able to come to the game, so it was pretty fun to be able to play in front of them and just get my feet wet again. Kind of felt like it was like freshman jitters almost. But after the first couple plays, it was all right."
Anthrop's value goes beyond black-and-white statistics. He’s a de facto coach who knows his role as a complementary weapon on a wideout unit that teems with talent like sophomores David Bell, Milton Wright and Rondale Moore, among others.
But leadership and savvy had nothing to do with Anthrop's accelerated return to the field this season after his left shoulder injury. It was Antrhop's silent work ethic--his toughness--that brought him to this unlikely point with a chance to play Purdue's final five games. It's an ethos he learned from a close-knit Lafayette family steeped in athletic ability and accomplishment at Central Catholic High. Call it "Anthrop Tough."
The Antrhop clan is dipped in gold and black and pulsates all things Purdue. Brothers Dru (basketball) and Danny (football) played for the Boilermakers. And dad John (basketball) was a letterman. Mom Jana is a Purdue grad, too. Oldest brother Jade played college hoops at now-defunct St. Joe's in Rensselaer, Ind.
“It's just all about staying the course,” said Jackson. "We're a pretty faith-based family, so we always say our prayers at night and hope that everybody, not only for myself, but everybody on the team can stay healthy, especially during this time. Just having trust and trust in the process and just getting better every single day because you don't really know how many times you can put on a uniform and play football. So, you have to take advantage every single time you can do it."
Anthrop almost didn't get that chance in 2020. During a non-padded practice early in camp, he went over the middle and bent down to catch a low pass. That's when he got hit from behind and into the ground.
"Early on when it happened, it was heartbreaking, because I didn't know what was going to happen for like the next couple of weeks, maybe months," said Anthrop. "But our training staff and the doctors, they did a great job throughout surgery. ... "
Shephard had seen this before.
"The young man last year broke his foot in a Thursday practice, and we didn't think that he would have any chance of playing," said Shephard. "Friday morning, gets up and he's running on the indoor and ended up playing in the game on the broken foot. That's what he wanted to do. He felt comfortable with it and played the last two games ...
"And then this year, to have the injury that he sustained occur, and for him to back already and not just back but fully participating. ... "
Anthrop’s impact since arriving as part of Darrell Hazell’s final recruiting class in 2016 has been noteworthy. The 5-11, 190-pound Anthrop led Brohm’s first team in catches as a redshirt freshman in 2017, when he made 47 grabs for 423 yards and five TDs. He saw his production slip to just eight catches for 54 yards in 2018 before rebounding to 37 receptions for 340 yards and a TD last season. Anthrop is moving in on 100 career catches (94) and 1,000 career receiving yards (828) while also doing duty as a return man.
“He's Mr. Reliable,” said junior quarterback Aidan O’Connell. “He is a great leader for us. He leads by example and just comes to practice ready to work every day. It was an unfortunate injury, but we're happy that he was able to get back in. He just has great hands, makes plays for us and he plays so hard every play.”
To return from surgery as quickly as he did in 2020 didn’t go unnoticed by the head coach.
“Jackson had shoulder surgery and really he shouldn't even be back by now,” said Jeff Brohm. “But he worked extremely hard to get back. He just got cleared fully by the doctor a day or two before the game. So, we didn't want to overdo it.”
Leading up to the 27-20 loss to Northwestern, Anthrop had not been hit or had a great deal of practice.
“We were able to put him out there with an orange jersey, do a little bit,” said Brohm. “But for him, he has played a lot of football. We felt a little bit better about putting him in with limited practice time. So, I think he came out of the game feeling good. So, we'll continue to work him this week, and like always we can count on him to do exactly what we ask as hard as he can; and yes, he'll have a very good role in this offense.”
Jackson will continue to author his comeback story on Friday, when the Boilermakers (2-1) play at Minnesota (1-3) at 7:30 p.m. ET on BTN. Purdue will be looking to rebound from its first loss of 2020. There is still much to play for the Boilermakers and Anthrop.
"We all know how much Purdue University means to him," said Shephard. "It just means so much to him and his family. And so, there's nothing else that he would rather be doing than being here with his teammates, and he was here constantly.
"He worked tirelessly to consistently go through rehab, take care of his body, do whatever the doctors and trainers told him to do. I'm just very proud of him and got a lot of respect for Jackson, and the way he carries himself and the way he consistently fights for Purdue University."
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