WEST LAFAYETTE | While approaching Connor Snapp, I kept thinking Indiana Dunes. I mean, this kid is HUGE at 6-foot-9, 321 pounds.
And he's just a freshman at Purdue, a preferred walk-on from Valparaiso.
Wednesday was Media Day at Ross-Ade Stadium and Snapp's name had been added to the revised roster, so may as well introduce myself.
I tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he had a minute.
"What? Uh, OK," Snapp replied, caught off guard by the request. What would media want with him, a virtual unknown in the football program?
The next 15 minutes was the most enjoyable I've spent covering a sporting event in some time. Turns out Snapp's family moved to Valpo from Colorado when he was in the eighth grade. He played, struggled, endured and slowly developed but wasn't a varsity starter until his senior year.
And he capped it off by earning AP All-State honorable mention as an offensive lineman.
Wednesday, Connor Snapp looked like antsy youngster savoring his first trip to Disney World and was all smiles as he stood at the 50-yard line of the sprawling stadium.
It wasn't until late June that Purdue had offered.
"If I'm not red-shirted this year, I probably will be next year," he said. "Right now, I'm just learning the plays, getting bigger, getting stronger, going through it one practice at a time."
"I got size but I still need to really work on my strength and speed," Snapp said. "During conditioning, it's still really hard for me."
Upon graduating, Snapp personally thanked Valpo coach Mark Hoffman for turning him into a football player and gave the skipper a Purdue cap. This D-I setting indeed is a dream come true.
On many teams, older players treat walk-ons as if they snuck in the back door, but Snapp credits the offensive and defensive linemen for going out of their way to make his transition smooth as a baby's back.
"I'm still getting used to being away from the folks," Snapp said. "I think I'm adapting well. I'm trying to learn the campus here and there.
"I can get to the (student) union without having to look at my map anymore. I don't know it like the back of my hand, but I'm starting to get a feel for it."
Valpo to Purdue University is only 92 miles, barely two hours, but you see the innocence here.
While many football players spent summer on campus, training and conditioning, Snapp was busy helping the family prepare for his graduation party by cleaning up the house and doing landscaping.
"I worked out every day at the school and when I wasn't, I was pulling weeds and moving big rocks and moving furniture around. I was moving stuff nonstop," he said.
On campus, the Purdue team quickly welcomed him aboard despite lacking a resume.
"They kick your butt on the football field because they want you to get stronger. (But) they definitely bring you into the 'family' and make sure you have everything you need," said Snapp, who chose Purdue over Rose-Hulman for engineering.
As I took Snapp's picture, I suggested he put on his football face and look mean and snarly. But he couldn't.
"My mother wouldn't like that, so I'd better smile," he said in what sounded more like an apology.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.