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Thursday, February 25, 2010
Purdue's Werner gets green light for 2010

By Adam Rittenberg

The most impressive statistic from Jason Werner's 2009 season wasn't 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks or two forced fumbles.

It was 12 games played and started.

Jason Werner
Werner had to appeal to the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.
For just the second time in his Purdue career, Werner got through a season unscathed. The linebacker missed both the 2006 and 2008 seasons with back problems. He has undergone two surgeries on his back, but he made it through 2009 without any health issues.

"For anybody that’s played a serious sport, having two years back-to-back is great," Werner said. "That first year is always good, but you know with another year, it could get a lot better."

Whether Werner would get that second season remained to be seen. He exhausted his five years of eligibility at Purdue, but since he missed two full seasons because of injury, he applied to the NCAA for a sixth season.

Werner knew he had a good shot of landing the sixth year since his Purdue teammate Torri Williams had been successful in a similar appeal last February. But there are no guarantees.

“It was a lot of anticipation," he said. "I didn’t really know what the decision was based off of. They just said I had a pretty good case. I figured, take a shot. Why not?"

While he waited for a decision, Werner participated fully in Purdue's offseason program. He went through every workout and every weightlifting session.

After completing his workout Friday morning, Werner was on he way to class when he received a text message from linebackers coach Mark Hagen, asking him to call.

"I gave him a call before going to class and he just said, 'It looks like you're going to be a Boiler for another year,'" Werner said.

The NCAA's decision brought a mix of relief and excitement for Werner, who had given some thought to what he would do if his college career. He wouldn't give up on football, but he'd be in a tough spot.

"Being so late now without any preparation, my chances [at playing pro ball] would have decreased immensely," he said. "I really had my hopes on getting that year because it would fall into place a lot better as far as my future, period. I’m really glad it came through."

So is Purdue, which is thrilled to have its best and most experienced linebacker back on the field for the 2010 season. Werner provides a huge boost to a defensive front seven that needs to improve against the run, after ranking last in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed in each of the last two seasons.

Werner knows the Boilers must be more detailed in their gap assignments and improve on how they take on blocks. Perhaps most important, Purdue needs to finish games better after losing five games by seven points or less.

After getting the green light from the NCAA, Werner is focused on finishing strong. He hopes to serve as a team captain for the second straight year.

"With another year of experience and now that it’s official that I’m the oldest guy on the team, it's one of those things I'd like to take," he said. "You’ve been around the most, you've seen the most, so you've got the most information to give and help the other guys. I really take that on as a personal challenge to do what I can."