Former Hayden standout Desmond Purnell ready for jump to Division I at Kansas State
Call it Desmond Purnell's "Aha moment."
For most of his life, Purnell looked up to his older brother, Lorenzo (L.A.), who played at Pittsburg State from 2014-15 after also starring at Hutchinson Community College. Ten years younger, Desmond always emulated L.A.
Wanted to be like him. Be as good as him and good enough to play at the next level with Division I the ultimate goal.
"That's every kid's dream," he said.
Going into his senior year at Hayden this past fall, Desmond got some words from L.A. that not only meant the world to him, but told him he had what it took to make it at the next level.
"He told me I was better than he was," Desmond said. "Him being the big brother, he always bossed me around and was on me to get better. Him saying that, it just lit a spark in me. It boosted my confidence a lot,."
Purnell went out and had a big senior year for the Wildcats. Starring on both sides of the ball as a running back/defensive back, Purnell (6-foot1, 210 pounds) finished with 1,280 combined rushing and receiving yards and scored 22 touchdowns offensively, while adding 80 tackles defensively.
Not only did he earn All-City Top 11 honors for the second straight year, but also was the City Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Class 4A selection.
Following his big senior season, Purnell got an offer from Kansas State, which he jumped on immediately, signing with the Wildcats for his collegiate career.
Before that career gets fully underway, Purnell has one more prep game to compete in as a member of the East squad for Saturday's Kansas Shrine Bowl. The game will be held at 7 p.m. at Hutchinson's Gowans Stadium.
And just as he jumped at the chance to play for Kansas State, Purnell didn't hesitate when the call came to play in the Shrine Bowl. He's the lone Topekan on this year's team.
"This is a great opportunity to help out the kids and we're just excited to be here playing football," he said. "(Kansas State) highly encouraged me to play and I definitely wanted to."
Purnell will play safety for the East squad in Saturday's game, the same position he's slated to play at Kansas State. And just in the few days he's had to see Purnell, East coach Brian King (DeSoto) has been more than impressed with the former Hayden standout.
"He's an intelligent, intelligent football player," King said. "The angles he takes, he just has a nose for the ball. Great instincts."
Purnell reported to workouts at Kansas State on June 1 and has been in Manhattan the entire month before returning for the Shrine Bowl camp in Ottawa last Sunday. In the three weeks he's been in Manhattan, he's already found a comfort level.
"It took a couple of days being homesick, but it didn't last long," Purnell said. "Now it feels like home."
It's a big jump from Class 3A football to Division I, but Purnell is eager to make it.
"There is some stuff I still have to learn, but I'm ready for it," he said. "It's better athletes, better competition. It's going to be a huge transition for sure, but I can't wait."