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Draft Day Wrap-Up and Noteworthy Tid-Bits from Kenny

Erich Barnes always believed he belonged in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The former Purdue standout defensive back’s resume reads like a Hall of Famer. Barnes is one of the few NFL players to earn All-Pro honors with three different teams. Seven of his 45 career interceptions were returned for touchdowns. When he retired in 1970, Barnes owned the second-longest interception return in NFL history (102 yards against Dallas in 1961).

But 20 years before his death at the age of 86 on April 29, Barnes sensed he would not live to make a speech in Canton, Ohio.

“I thought I belonged in there,” Barnes said in 2002. “If they put me in, they do. They don’t, they don’t.

“I’m not going to lose any sleep over it because deep down inside, I know I was good enough. Guys I covered – Paul Warfield, Bobby Mitchell … all these guys are in – also know.”

Barnes had unfortunate timing in his career. The Chicago Bears, who took him in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL Draft, were in a down period. Traded to the New York Giants in 1961, Barnes’ path to an NFL championship was blocked by the Green Bay Packers. Barnes arrived in Cleveland in 1965, one year after the Browns won their most recent NFL title.

“I played for three teams and … when you’re not associated with one team, nobody (in the press) sort of adopts you,” Barnes said. “I’ve been told a few times by people it’s political. You really have to campaign.”

Barnes’ biggest moment at Purdue was a record-setting 95-yard touchdown pass from Len Dawson in 1955. That mark stood until Drew Brees and Vinny Sutherland teamed up for a 99-yard touchdown in 1999.

Barnes credited Jack Mollenkopf’s coaching at Purdue for helping him last 13 seasons in the NFL.

“His thing was to be aggressive and if you couldn’t tackle, you couldn’t play for him,” Barnes said. “You had to hit and you had to make the tackles. That was Mr. Halas’ cry too. You had to be a hitter to play for that team.”

Barnes prospered while playing for George Halas and the Chicago Bears, making the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons. After being traded to New York, Barnes made the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons with the Giants.

“You play the same type of ball with a lot of franchises, nobody knows you’re around,” Barnes said.

Barnes finished his career with his favorite team as a child, the Browns. He made his final Pro Bowl appearance in 1969.

NFL Draft wrap-up

Purdue All-American wide receiver David Bell is rated as the Cleveland Browns’ best overall draft pick by ESPN’s Todd McShay.

“Bell probably won’t be a Rookie of the Year candidate, but he’s an instinctive and versatile pass-catcher who runs crafty routes and has sure hands,” McShay writes.

“The speed is a red flag — he ran a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash at the combine and followed it up with a 4.71 at his pro day — but he still has a lot of upside. Bell hauled in 93 catches for 1,286 receiving yards last season, both of which finished in the top 15 in the nation.”

Reliable hands, though, offset the speed issue in the opinion of Browns executive vice president/general manager Andrew Berry.

According to a story at clevelandbrowns.com, Bell was credited with just 11 drops while catching 232 passes in his three seasons at Purdue.

“We think he’s a guy who can really play both outside and inside,” Berry told clevelandbrowns.com. “But we think that he can really make a living with his size, his savvy and his hands in the slot.

Pro Football Focus gave high marks to the Kansas City Chiefs for taking former Purdue star George Karlaftis with the 30th overall pick.

“Karlaftis (was) the biggest steal of Round 1,” Pro Football Focus’ draft analysis states. “He (was) one of the few game-wreckers in college football last season. The 6-foot-4, 266-pounder boasts some of the best hand usage in the class and plays with big-time power.”

Karlaftis said all the right things before signing a fully guaranteed four-year contract earlier this week. Some reports have indicated he received a multimillion dollar signing bonus and the contract’s value approaches $12 million.

“I’m going to start off as the lowest man on the totem pole and work my way up,” Karlaftis said following his selection. “When you find (something) you love, work as hard as you possibly can at it. I don’t think it makes much sense to dedicate almost your whole life to something if you’re not going to give it your maximum ability every single time you’re out there.”

Purdue’s third NFL draft pick, Zander Horvath, was described by NFL.com as “a prototypical core special teams type with upside as a sub-package pass catcher as an H-back or fullback.”

Horvath was taken in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Noteworthy

Purdue has had 10 Indiana Miss Basketball winners but its 2022-23 roster will have an Illinois Miss Basketball as well.

Sophie Swanson, a junior guard from Barrington High School, won a close vote conducted by the Chicago Tribune. Swanson led Barrington to a 30-6 record and a state runner-up finish in Class 4A.

She averaged 21.4 points and 5.2 rebounds, breaking school records for points in a season (750) and a game (40).

– Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Cou¬rier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.