Tanner Purdum signs with the New York Jets

Story by Kyle Davis

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Tanner Purdum was substitute teaching at the high school where he played years ago and checked the messages on his phone over his lunch break.

Having a missed call isn’t uncommon.

Having a missed call from the player personnel director of the New York Jets is a little less common.

On Friday, Purdum, a former Baker University football player and graduate assistant, was a substitute teacher. On Tuesday he was a long snapper for the National Football League’s New York Jets.

‘The player personnel director had called me and left me a message to call him back and they asked me to come down for a tryout on Tuesday,’ Purdum said. ‘So I just got a call from them on Friday and wound up signing with them on Tuesday.’

The Jets flew Purdum out on Monday for the Tuesday tryout, and Purdum had signed a three-year league-minimum contract before getting back on the plane.

Purdum’s name was put in the Jets’ ear by someone Kansas City Chiefs fans may be familiar with: former Chiefs punter Louis Aguilar.

Along with substitute teaching, Purdum was continuing to train and look for coaching jobs. He had also planned on traveling to Las Vegas to participate in Aguilar’s pro combine.

‘I do a lot of work with (Aguilar) and help him coach some high school camps in the area of Blue Springs and other places,’ Purdum said. ‘The (Jets’) player personnel director … had just called Louis and said he was just trying out a few kickers and wanted to know if he had any snappers, and Louis gave him my name and he got in contact with me and went from there.’

Last year Purdum worked out with the Green Bay Packers and was with the Kansas City Chiefs through last spring, summer and into the fall camp before getting released two days before the Chiefs’ first preseason game.

‘He’s living the dream, and he’s pursuing it,’ Baker head football coach Mike Grossner said. ‘But in the background he’s also taking care of business. He got his four-year degree and worked on his master’s and coached with us knowing that after this career is done, he will have something to fall back on. He has a goal of being a teacher and coach the rest of his life.’

In a few short years Purdum will have gone from a NAIA football player and graduate assistant in Baldwin City to a NFL player living 45 minutes outside of New York City. He said he enjoyed his time at Baker and the experience it gave him.

‘I loved playing there. Coach Grossner gave me a lot of ability while I was coaching, a lot of freedom to, he said ‘coach and do the things you need to, but you also need to be training,’ Purdum said. ‘He kept pushing me and gave me the freedom to be able to train and pursue this … and allowed me to get some coaching experience.’

Purdum will be moving to New Jersey, where the Jets’ practice facility is located, and starts team weightlifting on March 22, although he said he will probably go out a week early to settle in.

'I think he's done a great job of juggling many things,' Grossner said. 'This is his opportunity to finally, hopefully, achieve that ultimate goal of playing in the NFL and boy we're going to be proud of him.'<br/> ' '