Where Are They Now

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Where Are They Now: Tanner Purdum

Catch Up with the Jets Legend and Former Long Snapper 

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For the price of postage, Tanner Purdum invested in what he hoped would be his future.

After graduating from Baker University, an NAIA school in Baldwin City, Kansas, Purdum worked as a grad assistant at Avila University and at Baker, but never strayed from his desire to play in the NFL.

"I'd gone to (former Jets and Kansas City Chiefs kicker) Louie Aguiar's pro combine for those two years when I was being a G.A. and kind of got my name out there that way," Purdum said. "After the second time I went to that, I sent out a DVD to every player personnel director, special teams coach, G.M., head coach. Each team got four DVDs, so, I kind of was obnoxious about it. (The Chiefs) saw I was in the area and brought me in for a tryout."

Purdum didn't catch on with Kansas City in 2009, and was contacted by the Jets the following year.

"I was brought in for live-fire for a punter who was trying out," Purdum said. "They needed somebody to feed him snaps because (veteran long snapper James) Dearth wasn't on site; he was a free agent. And they liked me better than they liked the punter. So, they kept me and gave me a three-year contract."

By putting pen to paper and signing the deal, Purdum realized his dream of playing pro football, and was a rookie long snapper three years after playing in his final college game. Understandably, he wasn't taking anything for granted.

"For training camp and everything, they didn't have anybody else. It was just me," Purdum said. "So, I just kind of took it day-to-day. The first couple years was just all a day-to-day kind of thing. I didn't look too far ahead. I knew I was the guy because they hadn't brought anybody else in. Nobody told me to stop."

And so, he didn't. Over seven seasons with the Jets, 2010-16, every field goal attempt, every punt, began with Purdum. And he was flawless. Never a bad snap or a penalty in 112 consecutive regular-season games.

"Game days, it was just walk in and focus," Purdum said. "Everything just kind of melted away for me. I didn't ever really hear the crowd. Didn't ever really hear anything but the coaches. For me to be successful, it was so much muscle memory that I had to do it. And I played better when I just moved and reacted and didn't think."

One of Purdum's fondest memories as a Jet occurred during his rookie season when New York put it to the AFC East-rival New England Patriots.

"We're in the (divisional round of the) playoffs playing the Patriots to go to the AFC Championship Game. And the second time we played them (in Week 13), they just smoked us. I mean, we scored three points (and lost 45-3). It was cold and it sucked and I hated it," Purdum said.

"We come back (to New England for) the playoffs and in the fourth quarter after Shonn Greene scored a touchdown, the place was silent. Every single Patriots fan was silent. That was one of the greatest memories, just sticking it to them and knocking them out of the playoffs. And us moving ahead, because that place was always just so loud and the fans were so obnoxious. It's not a good place. Especially for a Jets player."

With everything he did to make it to the NFL, and everything he did to stay, what makes Purdum most proud of his career?

"Probably just the product that I put on the field," he said. "All the hours I put in, all the work I put in, and I was able to successfully do it on the field without a mistake."

Announcing his retirement in March 2018, Purdum joined Baker University's football coaching staff later that year, and recently completed his third season at his alma mater.

"I called my coach that was at Baker, 'Hey, I'll come over and help' and it just kind of morphed into that," Purdum said. "He left and our defensive coordinator took on as head coach and he asked me to be the special teams coordinator and strength coordinator. So, it just kind of grew from there into a full-time thing, and now we're coming off our sixth-straight (Heart of America Conference) championship. So, we're just plugging along and having a blast doing it."

What does Purdum enjoy most about coaching?

"Probably the little tweaks that I make in their faces, that they get so irritated that I can see little things that they're doing. And then once they change those little coaching points that I'm telling them, and it goes exactly how it should, those are probably the most enjoyable just because it's validating," he said.

"As a freshman, they seem to hate me. As a sophomore, they seem to understand me. As a senior, they seem to love me. So, it's kind of that growing up and realization of, 'Wow, he really is giving me good information.'

"The biggest thing I try to put forth is something I learned from (former Jets special teams coach Mike) Westhoff – I'm not going to lie to you. You're going to get it whether you like it or not. I'm going to say it straight to your face and I'm going to coach my ass off. And that's what you're going to get out of me every day."

 And while Purdum wasn't chosen for the Pro Bowl as a player, as a husband, he's married to an All-Pro.

His wife, Kara, a nurse in a dedicated COVID-19 intensive care unit at the University of Kansas Health System, and her colleagues are rockstars.

"They had her on (ABC-TV's) Good Morning America (recently) to interview her because she's one of leading nurses at the hospital and they deal with all the COVID patients. She pretty much helps run all that stuff," Purdum said. "It's long and hard and grueling, but she likes it at the same time. It's very hard from what I can tell, but she's very good at what she does, and there for a reason.

"Since all this COVID stuff has been around, her floor was the one that took all the initial patients. And now her floor is pretty much the one that sets the standard on how to take care of people."

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