This week’s countdown of Purdue’s Top 150 football players has a distinct Joe Tiller flavor.

Nine of the 10 players played for the winningest coach in Boilermaker history. While Tiller was known for his offense, seven of the nine starred on defense. The 10th man on this week’s countdown was an Olympian and an NFL wide receiver following his days at Purdue.

No. 60
Kyle Orton

Orton ranks fourth in Purdue history for career passing yards (9.337) and touchdown passes (63). His four consecutive starts in bowl games (2001-04) at the time was a distinction matched by only 12 quarterbacks in college football history.

But what Orton should be remembered for is his toughness. Playing with a dislocated thumb, a sprained toe and a cracked rib, he completed 20 of 34 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown in an overtime loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl following the 2003 season. He also rushed for two touchdowns that day.

Orton went on to pass for 18,037 yards and 101 touchdowns in 11 NFL seasons with Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Dallas and Buffalo.

No. 59
Larry Burton

Arguably the fastest man ever to wear a Purdue football uniform, Burton was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic track team. He finished fourth in the 200 meters.

Burton was a first-team All-American wide receiver in 1974, the same year he was named Outstanding College Athlete of America and a first-team All-Big Ten selection. Following two seasons as Purdue’s leading receiver, Burton was drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. He played five seasons with the Saints and San Diego.

No. 58
Shaun Phillips

A member of the “Den of Defensive Ends,” Phillips started 49 consecutive games from 2000 to 2003 while becoming one of the best pass rushers in school history.

He recorded 14.5 sacks as a senior, earning first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American honors. Phillips went on to collect 81.5 sacks during an 11-year NFL career with San Diego, Denver, Tennessee and Indianapolis. 

No. 57
Kory Sheets

It may surprise even long-term Purdue fans that Sheets is the record-holder for career rushing touchdowns (48), career total touchdowns (54) and rushing touchdowns in a season (16 in 2008).

For good measure, Sheets ranks second with 664 rushing attempts, 3,341 rushing yards, 4,944 all-purpose yards and 324 points. As a senior in 2008, he became just the sixth Boilermaker to rush for at least 1,000 yards (1,131).

Sheets briefly played in the NFL with Miami but had his greatest pro success in 2013 with Saskatchewan in the Canadian Football League. Sheets was the Grey Cup’s most valuable player, setting the championship game record with 197 rushing yards to go with two touchdowns in a 45-23 victory against Hamilton.

No. 56
Kawann Short

An outstanding athlete for his size (6-3, 315 pounds), Short was a four-year starter at defensive tackle for the Boilermakers.

Short was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection with career totals that include 186 tackles and 19.5 sacks. He ranks third in school history for the most tackles for loss (49) and sacks by a defensive tackle. Short owns the school record with eight blocked kicks.

Short was a second-round draft pick in 2013 by the Carolina Panthers, whom he has represented in two Pro Bowls.

No. 55 
Cliff Avril

Making the move from linebacker to defensive end as a junior, Avril prospered with 12.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss in 2006 and 2007.

Avril was even better in the NFL, racking up 74 career sacks for Detroit and Seattle from 2008 to 2017. He helped Seattle win Super Bowl XLVIII and was selected to the 2016 Pro Bowl.

No. 54 
Bernard Pollard

From earning freshman All-America honors in 2003 to his early departure for the NFL in 2005, Pollard became known as a hard-hitting safety.

Pollard was selected second-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore thanks to a team-high 96 tackles. He again led the Boilermakers as a junior with 92 stops. Pollard’s five punt blocks are a school record.

A second-round draft pick by Kansas City, Pollard played nine seasons in the NFL and earned a Super Bowl XLVII ring with Baltimore.

No. 53
Akin Ayodele

A three-year starter at defensive end after transferring from Coffeyville Community College, Ayodele had 11 sacks as a sophomore in 1999. 

Ayodele was dominant for the 2000 Big Ten champions with nine sacks among his 15 for loss. He was named first-team All-Big Ten as a senior and finished his career with 29 sacks, tied with Jeff Zgonina for second on Purdue’s list.

After being a third-round pick of Jacksonville, Ayodele would play nine seasons in the NFL with the Jaguars, Dallas, Miami and Buffalo.

No. 52
Chike Okeafor

A generation before George Karlaftis made the short trip from West Lafayette High School to Ross-Ade Stadium, Okeafor did the same after also leading the Red Devils to a state championship.

Okeafor quickly became a starting linebacker as a freshman in 1994. He led Purdue in tackles as a sophomore in 1995 and was third in 1996. After a one-year suspension imposed by Tiller, 

Okeafor moved from linebacker to defensive end in 1998 and teamed up with Rosevelt Colvin to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. 

A third-round draft pick by San Francisco in 1999, Okeafor would enjoy a 10-year NFL career that saw him collect 53 sacks for the 49ers, Seattle and Arizona.

No. 51
Stuart Schweigert

One of the most celebrated recruits of the Tiller era, Schweigert lived up to the hype. A four-year starter, Schweigert was a second-team All-Big Ten safety as a freshman and sophomore before moving up to the first team as a junior and senior.

He is Purdue’s career interceptions leader with 17 and his 360 career tackles by a defensive back trails only Rod Woodson. Schweigert was drafted in the third round by the Oakland Raiders in 2004 and played five seasons in the NFL.

Kenny Thompson is an award winning journalist who writes a weekly column for The Paper of Montgomery County and covers North Montgomery Sports.