The finish line

Friday was the "fun" day.
If you consider running full-speed relay races at 6:20 in the morning and throwing medicine balls to be fun, then the Boilermakers' final 6 a.m. workout of the winter was just that.
That's what the Boilermakers did Friday morning as early morning winter workouts came to a close, with spring break to come next, followed closely by the beginning of spring practices back on campus.
"These last couple 6 a.m.'s, man they got to me," wide receiver Raheem Mostert said. "Ever since Coach (Darrell) Hazell came in, there's been a lot of intensity and enthusiasm and everyone's taken on the new approach. We're more fit than ever."
Tangibly and intangibly, said defensive end Ryan Russell.
"We're definitely closer as a team," the junior said. "... And mental toughness is a big part of it. When you're tired, can you focus? Can you stay on the line? Can you remember the snap count? We made strides in terms of mental toughness, focus and just being together as a team."
For Hazell and his first-year Purdue coaching staff, this was the first opportunity to lay their foundation for the program, to sort of set the standard they're looking to implement.
Such workouts are nothing exclusive to Purdue. Everyone does them, Purdue included under its former staff.
But Boilermaker players say this year's were "completely different," in Mostert's words, more punishing than in years past. By design, of course.
"It's a big difference," Mostert said. "We all accepted it, because we want to get better and be a top (team). We were going to do whatever Coach Hazell wanted us to do."
Friday was supposed to be fun.
The workouts that came before Friday, not so much.
"It was harder than anything I've been part of at Purdue," said Russell, a fourth-year junior. "But Coach Hazell told us this is what it was going to take to make us champions, so everyone's willing to do it.
"The things I've gone through out here, I've never felt that way in a football game. It's definitely already harder than it will be. When you go out there and it's easy, that's when you're winning."
Next time Hazell and staff have their team on the field, it'll be for their first actual football practices, starting March 19.
"I think they're in better shape," Hazell said, "but I think they also learned a little bit about how to fight through some pain and some adversity and they've been able to bond a little bit better because of it. They're starting to get our expectations.
"Obviously we have to build on it, but it's a good start for us."
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