Denzel Ward and the Purdue movement

Denzel Ward picked Purdue over several college football giants, doing so because he believes the program can reach a similar stature. Ward's commitment to Purdue has created a movement.

Denzel Ward's group of four favorites included Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Purdue. Three of those programs have won a championship since the turn of the century. The one which hasn't is Purdue.

It's for that reason why Ward, a highly touted offensive tackle, chose to become a Boilermaker on Friday morning. He wanted to start a movement.

Purdue offers Ward everything he needs off the field. It has an elite business school, a comfortable campus and is close to home. The one thing it's missing compared to his other three finalists is a championship tradition. His goal is to help change that.

"I know we can beat those big names, because Purdue is going to be a big name themselves," Ward said.

It all started during Ward's visit in West Lafayette last week. The experience started with a train delayed four hours and saw Ward nearly get his eye poked out during a drill in camp, causing a nasty cut. To cap it all off, his train ride home was delayed, too. Even with all that, he was still sold on Purdue.

During a meeting with new Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, it all clicked. Ward was delivered a message that stuck with him.

"Coach Hazell wanted me to know that this is your school and you can make a difference," said Ward.

With that in mind, Ward picked Purdue. He feels it can enjoy the same success as those college football powers he turned down. The only thing Ward can do now is work to make the program better.

Ward is working to recruit a strong class to Purdue, now. His primary targets are names like Terry McLaurin, Gelen Robinson and Noah Furbush. He even called running back Taiwan Deal, who's visiting West Lafayette on Saturday.

"It's a school you can make big," Ward has said to these elite recruits, looking to sway them from the bigger names.

Darrell Hazell couldn't ask for anything better. The new leader at Purdue can only sell hope at this point, but prime prospects are buying in. A recruiting victory like Denzel Ward is proof.

Just hours after his commitment, Ward took to Twitter and expressed his sentiments to the program in the form of a hashtag. He began tweeting #ThisIsOurPurdue , and it has since gained steam. Fans have responded by tweeting it, too. Even the other verbal pledges like Kirk Barron and David Blough have begun using it, and even sending it to current Purdue targets.

The idea behind the hashtag is that Ward and this 2014 class can help reshape the program. It's their Purdue.

"I want a great team that can compete with the Ohio States and the Michigans," Ward said.

Ward calls it a movement. With the hole Purdue is in, it's more of a mission. Still, Hazell has inspired hope in his program and it's spreading.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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