A starting offensive tackle in Saturday’s Iowa-Purdue football game will be from Lafayette, Ind., which normally wouldn’t be unusual.
Except that the player is an Iowa Hawkeye who left Lafayette not once for another Big Ten program, but twice.
Coy Cronk went to Central Catholic High School in Lafayette, less than 3 miles from Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette. Saturday marks his first game as a Hawkeye, but he’ll be back home again in Indiana. He’s a graduate transfer from Indiana University.
Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm, a smart and good recruiter, probably wouldn’t have let Cronk get away had he been in his current job a year earlier than when he got it in December 2016.
“I didn’t get offered from the Purdue coaching staff when I was there at the time,” Cronk said Tuesday. “There’s really no hard feelings. I played at a really small school in high school. We graduated 60 kids. Not a lot of people knew about me.”
Iowa State and over a dozen other programs knew, offering Cronk a scholarship out of high school. Central Catholic went 15-0 in 2015 and won Indiana’s Class A championship. Indiana knew, too. Cronk chose to go downstate, to Purdue’s archrival.
“I kind of had a big chip on my shoulder when I got to Indiana,” Cronk said.
Cronk started all 13 games at left tackle in 2016 as a first-year freshman. He was a team captain making his 40th career start last September when he suffered a severely broken ankle in a game against Connecticut.
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The Hoosiers’ entire team gathered around him as he was carted off the field, and awarded him the game ball after they won that game.
“This team loves him and he loves this team, and he’ll always be a special part of Indiana,” Indiana Coach Tom Allen said after the game.
The following week, the other three captains took Cronk’s jersey with them to midfield for the coin toss before their game at Michigan State.
After the season, Cronk became a college free agent.
“Sometimes you’ve got to make tough decisions,” Cronk said. “There’s no one I respect more than that program. … Overall, I thought it was a great experience, but I’m excited for this next opportunity.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz called. “From there,” Cronk said, “to me it was an easy decision.”
Indiana has three former offensive linemen in the NFL, so it’s not like Cronk couldn’t have gotten there from Bloomington. But seven former Hawkeyes O-linemen are in the NFL including 2020 first-round draftee Tristan Wirfs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We lost a really good player in Tristan, who’s doing really well right now,” Ferentz said. “We lose a guy that you could really count on who had that experience level, it’s nice to have another guy who’s also pretty experienced. … We’re thrilled Coy’s here.”
Cronk is slotted as the starting right tackle Saturday. It’s a homecoming, though not the one he could have had. It wasn’t that Cronk had any bone to pick with Purdue’s current coach.
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“I ran into Brohm a few times being around Lafayette,” Cronk said. “He’s a tremendous coach, he’s a great friend, and more importantly, what he does for the community, which I respect a ton. What he’s been able to do there and bring excitement back to life, that’s been awesome.”
“When I decided to grad-transfer I just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to go to Purdue. Just being a team captain at Indiana, just having the respect I do for Indiana, to me it didn’t seem like the best move.
“I really wasn’t in the business of trying to disrespect anyone or anything like that. It already was a tough decision and I didn’t want to throw oil on the fire or anything like that.”
While the Hoosiers obviously didn’t want to see a beloved and proven starting tackle leave, it would at least be a little consolation to them if he helped the Hawkeyes hang a home defeat on Purdue.
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