Sometimes, the choices for picking the best Purdue football players by number are not as easy as it seems.
Any Boilermaker fan over the age of 30 would agree there was no doubt about who was the best to wear No. 40. However, two other all-time great Purdue players also wore that number. Read on to see who I mean.
No. 31
The pick: Elmer Sleight
Sleight and teammate Ralph Welch were Purdue's first football All-Americans. Sleight starred at tackle from 1927-29 and wrapped up his collegiate career by helping undefeated Purdue claim the outright 1929 Big Ten championship.
Honorable mention: Bernard Pollard (2003-05) was a first-team Freshman All-American and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors as a safety during his sophomore year. Pollard was a second-round selection by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2006 NFL Draft. ... Running back John Skibinski was one of two second-generation Boilermaker football players from his family. His father, Joe, and uncle Dick played for Purdue in the 1950s, and cousin Rick played in the 1980s. Paired with Scott Dierking in 1976, Skibinski rushed for 871 yards. He led Purdue in rushing in 1977 with 655 yards. … Punter Joe Schopper (2015-18) averaged 41 yards per kick and was a key player in executing several trick plays called by coach Jeff Brohm.
No. 32
The pick: Cliff Avril
Avril (2004-07) established his place in Purdue's Den of Defensive Ends with 12.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss during his junior and senior seasons after making the move from linebacker.
Honorable mention: Mel Gray (1982-83) is regarded as one of the best junior college transfers in Purdue history, rushing for 1,765 yards and 15 touchdowns before becoming one of the NFL's greatest kickoff return specialists. ... Glen Harmeson was a first-team All-Big Ten quarterback for the 1929 Big Ten champions. ... Two years later, Paul Pardonner was a second-team All-Big Ten quarterback for the 1931 Big Ten champs. ... Jerod Void's 2,429 rushing yards from 2002-05 rank 10th all-time at Purdue and his 36 rushing touchdowns are third all-time.
No. 33
The pick: Ralph Welch
Nicknamed "Pest," Welch was a three-year starter at halfback and starred for the undefeated 1929 Big Ten champions. He later coached the University of Washington to the 1944 Rose Bowl.
Honorable mention: Danny Anthrop (2012-15) proved those who believed a standout at a small school (Central Catholic) could succeed in the Big Ten. The speedy Anthrop overcame a serious knee injury to catch 113 passes for 1,384 yards and nine touchdowns as a Boilermaker. ... Jaycen Taylor (2006-09) rushed for 1,624 yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons.
No. 34
The pick: Niko Koutouvides
Koutouvides (2000-03) was a first-team All-Big Ten middle linebacker during his senior season after recording 101 tackles. He was even better as a junior with 121 tackles, 11.5 for loss and four sacks.
Honorable mention: Abe Gibron (1946-48) was an All-Big Ten offensive lineman before playing in four Pro Bowls for the Cleveland Browns. He later was head coach of the Chicago Bears. ... Bob Baltzell scored four touchdowns in 1966 as a running back for Purdue's first Rose Bowl team.
No. 35
The pick: Mel Dillard
Undersized for a fullback at 187 pounds, even in the 1950s, Dillard (1955-57) earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 1956. That season he singlehandedly outrushed No. 18 Notre Dame 142-129 and scored two touchdowns in a 28-14 victory at South Bend. Dillard finished his junior season with 873 yards and eight touchdowns rushing.
Honorable mention: Howard Kissell (1928-30) was one of the standout running backs on the 1929 undefeated Big Ten championship team. ... Kicker Ben Jones holds the single-season field goals made record with 25 in 2003.
No. 36
The pick: Mark Jackson
All Jackson wanted was a chance when he originally walked on the football team in 1982 as a 5-9 wide receiver from Terre Haute South.
It took four seasons but Jackson finally got his opportunity. Teaming up with future Pro Bowl quarterback Jim Everett, Jackson caught 43 passes for 732 yards (a 17-yard per catch average) and five touchdowns.
That got the attention of the Denver Broncos, who took Jackson in the sixth round of the 1986 NFL Draft. He would go on to play in three Super Bowls with the Broncos and catch passes for 5,551 yards and 29 touchdowns in a nine-year career.
Honorable mention: Bob Jarus (1957-59) led the Boilermakers in rushing in the 1957 and 1958 seasons, while scoring 10 touchdowns in 1958. ... Bobby Williams (1978-81) was Purdue's second-leading rusher (362 yards) in 1977 before becoming a three-year starter at defensive back, where he made eight career interceptions. ... Edwin Watson (1994-97) rushed for 2,520 yards and 25 touchdowns. He and Kendall Matthews gave Purdue a 1-2 running punch during Joe Tiller's first season as head coach.
No. 37
The pick: Carson Wiggs
Purdue's leader in field goal percentage (73.7), Wiggs (2008-11) ranks second behind Travis Dorsch in career field goals with 56. The strong-legged Texan owns the four longest field goals in school history (59 yards vs. Toledo in 2009, 55 vs. Ohio State in 2009 and 53 vs. Ohio State in 2008 and against Minnesota in 2011).
Honorable mention: Fullback John Macon (1977-80) rushed for 1,911 yards during his career, including five 100-yard games. He was second-team All-Big Ten as a sophomore before injuries slowed him. ... Another fullback, Bruce King (1981-84) was a three-year starter who averaged 5.6 yards per carry and finished with more than 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns.
No. 38
The pick: Mike Pruitt
Pruitt combined power and speed (4.4 time in the 40-yard dash) to become one of the Big Ten's top running backs from 1973-75. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten with a 6.0 yards per carry average as a junior, a season that saw him set a Purdue record with a 94-yard touchdown run against Iowa.
Pruitt earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 1975 after rushing for 899 yards. He went on to play in two Pro Bowls representing the Cleveland Browns.
Honorable mention: Defensive back Bill Kay (1977-80) shares the record for interceptions in a season with seven in 1979, including three against Michigan.
No. 39
The pick: Alex Yunevich
Yunevich's timing was just right as he arrived at Purdue in time to help the Boilermakers win a pair of Big Ten titles in 1929 and 1931. He was an All-Big Ten fullback as a sophomore and for 43 years held the record for longest run from scrimmage, 90 yards against Centenary in 1931.
Honorable mention: Safety Tim Racke enjoyed one of the finest defensive performances in an Old Oaken Bucket game, snaring three interceptions during a 1972 victory against Indiana. ... Linebacker Aaron Hall (1992-95) remains among Purdue's career tackles leaders with 211.
No. 40
The pick: Mike Alstott
Purdue's all-time rushing leader with 3,635 yards, Alstott was dominating from 1992 to 1995. The only three-time MVP in Purdue history, Alstott set several records including career all-purpose yards (4,710), career touchdowns (42) and single-season rushing yards (1,436). He had a record 16 100-yard games in his career and is the only Boilermaker with more than 2,500 yards rushing and 1,000 receiving.
The record setting didn't stop at Purdue, either. During a 12-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he set the franchise record with 71 touchdowns. He became the first Purdue alumnus to score a Super Bowl touchdown while leading Tampa Bay to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Alstott was inducted into Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.
High honorable mention: Jeff Zgonina (1989-92) set school records for tackles for loss in a game (7), season (28) and career (72). He was the 1992 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Zgonina went on to have a 17-year career in the NFL with seven different teams, including the St. Louis Rams, whom he helped win Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. ... Kory Sheets (2006-09) left Purdue as its all-time leader in touchdowns (54) and rushing touchdowns (48) and second in scoring (324 points) to Travis Dorsch. Only Alstott has rushed for more yards than Sheets' 3,341, and only Dorien Bryant has more all-purpose yards than Sheets.

Kenny Thompson is an award winning journalist who writes a weekly column for Sagamore News Media