Most juniors would have run to a phone to call or text loved ones when learning they were about to make their first start.
Air Force defensive end Michael Purcell played it a little differently.
“Actually, I didn’t tell anybody,” the junior said. “I was too nervous. I did not want to jinx it.”
Even his parents, watching from Houston, didn’t learn Purcell was in the starting lineup until tuning into the broadcast.
Purcell made two tackles in the 41-24 victory over San Jose State, starting at defensive end while Jordan Jackson slid from end to defensive tackle to replace the injured Kaleb Nunez.
“It felt gratifying, being able to get out there and get my first start,” said Purcell, who chose Air Force over offers from Kansas and Yale. “Be a part of the team.”
Jackson, the preseason first-team all-Mountain West selection, was happy for his fellow junior, who had backed him up prior to Friday.
“He’s a grinder. He’s been behind me and working to get in this position,” Jackson said. “He played well today. It was good to see him out there. He had a great time. It was fun messing with him afterwards, too, and hearing everything he had to say.”
Moving forward, however, it’s unknown what the Falcons might do at that position. Moving the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Jackson to the inside worked for one game — he had four tackles and forced a fumble on a 7-yard sack — but most teams would be hesitant to mess with a proven commodity like him.
The defensive tackle position has been problematic from the start of the season. It was the one spot on the defense that didn’t return a player with starting experience, then senior Jared Bair (in line to start) went down with a leg injury in August. Now Nunez is down, though information on his injury is not available.
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” Jackson said. “I’m not in the coaches’ room. So I just try to do whatever I can do to help the team.”
Purcell, who played “like two snaps last year,” would obviously love to turn his one start into a regular gig.
Maybe this time he’d even let his family know.
“Coach has got to watch film, then he’ll make his decision,” Purcell said. “I feel like I helped the team win.”
When tailback Josh Stoner broke into the clear on a 43-yard run for Air Force, his thought was, "I can't believe I'm in this position." No wonder, it had taken three years to get there.
Air Force blew out San Jose State on Friday night, washing away the taste from a loss at Boise State and entering preparations for Navy on a high note.