Aidan O'Connell has displayed a level of resilience he might not have imagined throughout his football career.
He didn't arrive to Purdue as a flashy, highly recruited gunslinger. He was a walk-on with no Division I offers. He wasn't handed the keys to the offense from the jump. He patiently waited his turn to be the starter until his fifth season as a Boilermaker.
But once he received his opportunity, he proved to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.
After taking over as Purdue's starting quarterback in 2021, he threw for 3,712 yards, 28 touchdowns and completed nearly 72 percent of his throws. Pro Football Focus gave him a 91.2 overall grade, as he led the Boilermakers to a 9-4 record and a 48-45 victory over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.
O'Connell credits the support system of his family, coaches and teammates of being able to overcome the adversity from an unknown walk-on to fourth-round pick for the Las Vegas Raiders.
"I was pretty low on the depth chart, but my family [and] my friends always made me feel like I was the best quarterback in the world even when I wasn't," O'Connell said during his introductory conference call. "I think it was just the support I had around me. I have a passion for the game that even when circumstances around me may seem bleak, because I love the game ... I pushed through those circumstances.
"If I looked around and really assessed the situation, I probably would've transferred or stopped playing football. But I had great resources, great strength staff, nutrition, training room, coaches and facility. I knew with all those things, I gave myself a shot to play so I just tried to stick it out as possible."
The quarterback noted he had two formal interviews with Josh McDaniels and the Raiders, both of which he believes "went really well." The soon-to-be rookie signal-caller will have the grand opportunity of being able to learn from the coaches and players around him in Las Vegas, in a QB room that includes veterans Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Hoyer.
"I definitely come with a growth mindset, with a learner's attitude that I want to just soak in as much information as possible," said O'Connell. "Expectations are really just to come in and work as hard as possible to be the best teammate that I can be, to try to be the best player I can be and just to squeeze every bit of talent and whatever I have inside of me to try to help the organization, to help my teammates."
With the 135th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders selected quarterback Aidan O'Connell.