WEST LAFAYETTE -- In the days after a public, embarrassing arrest for theft, B.J. Knauf thought his time at Purdue was over. His new head coach, Darrell Hazell, had yet to decide a punishment. The redshirt freshman began to look past Purdue.
"I thought I was done for," Knauf said on Tuesday. "I was looking at schools and finding a way to tell my family that I wasn't going to be here."
Instead, Hazell showed the humility that has helped him maintain relationships with his players for years. The Boilermakers' first-year coach along with his assistants extended themselves as mentors to Knauf, hoping to help him recover from this incident.
A two-game suspension put the wide receiver away from the team on Saturdays, and in with the scout team in practice. That's where the real punishment would be. But the true lessons came off the field, where Knauf's coaches made him feel grateful for what he has.
"It really made me feel at home," Knauf said. "I didn't think I deserved any kind of stay on the team for my actions. They really offered themselves and their families to me. I'm really extremely thankful and humble for what they've done."
Knauf, a native of Winter Haven, Florida, was not recruited by Hazell. It was former Purdue coach Danny Hope who brought the receiver to West Lafayette. The two had built a close relationship through the recruiting process, and in through Knauf's first year on campus, Hope's final season.
The arrests of Knauf and teammate Jordan Woods were the first since Hazell took over as head coach, so Knauf wasn't sure what to expect in a punishment.
"I wasn't sure if Coach Hazell was on the same page [as Hope], or if it was a business thing where he was just going to cut me and move on to the next undefined," said Knauf. "He really took me into consideration in my life, and what it could've done. I'm really thankful for that."
Added Hazell: "I think [Knauf] has certainly has shown some remorse for his actions and he's done everything we've asked him to do; all of his class, all of his study we've asked him to do, he's done for us."
In practice on Tuesday, Knauf was working in with the first-team offense in his old Z-receiver role, but he hasn't quite earned back the starting job he lost. The receiver must get back into full playing shape and prove to the coaches that he's ready to start again.
The reps will come back for Knauf, but playing time won't be his primary focus on Saturday against Ohio State. He's grateful for the opportunity to continue his collegiate career at Purdue.
"When I step back on the field, it'll be humbling," he said. "I'll be a lot more thankful and humble that I have this chance every week, every year, to play football."