One of the first things people noticed about the new football coach was the way he wore his hat.
When coach Darrell Hazell was hired in December, people took notice not only to the fact that he came from a strong football background, but he wore his hat in a peculiar fashion. It even inspired a "Hazell" your hat contest. The hat he wears is unique in that each side of the brim is folded down at a 90 degree angle. He says there is no story behind it other than he likes the look.
"I started (it) back in '97," Hazell said. "I've done it for however many years that is and it's just something I like to do. I usually wear one to two of them a year ... and I have about 10 hats in my locker, but there's always that one that fits and looks perfect and that's the one I usually will wear. No matter that it has sweat stains or whatever on it, I still wear that hat."
Hazell has a lot of high expectations going into the next season. Hazell, who was hired in December, was the coach at Kent State University the past two seasons where he turned around a struggling program. In his second year at Kent State, he led the team to an 11-3 record, to the Mid-American Conference championship game and the GoDaddy.com bowl.
The new head coach also spent seven years as an assistant at Ohio State under Jim Tressel. As an assistant, Ohio State went to numerous Bowl Championship Series bowls and two national championships in 2004 and 2006. Since his hiring at Purdue, he has been the main focus of the football program. Hazell isn't one for the spotlight, but he does like the enthusiasm going into next season.
"These first six months getting out and meeting a lot of people here on campus and in the community," Hazell said. "Trying to drive some interest and infuse some enthusiasm in the fans, its been a lot of fun."
Athletic director Morgan Burke said he and three others in the athletic department went to interview Hazell after the Marathon MAC championship game in December and all four of them came out of the meeting knowing he was the right coach for the job.
"There's a piece of Darell (Hazell) when he makes eye contact with you, you can just feel the connection," Burke said. "You can sense right off the bat the ability for him to lead a group of 100 young men and they're going to follow him."
Purdue will play a tough schedule this fall that includes Notre Dame, who went to the national championship last year and Northern Illinois; whose team beat Hazell's Kent State in the MAC championship game to go to the Orange bowl. Hazell said they will prepare for each game one at a time and not overlook anyone.
"You have to prepare as hard as you can for each game because you only have 12 guaranteed opportunities," Hazell said. "You prepare as hard as you can and move on to the next one."