10/7/17  Minnesota, Anthony Mahoungou

Senior wide receiver Anthony Mahoungou runs for yardage after one of his two receptions against Minnesota. His two catches netted 76 yards.

As the first native of France to receive a full Division I football scholarship, Anthony Mahoungou feels an awesome responsibility to his country every time he laces up his cleats.

“When I dress up in the locker room, I take a few seconds and (remind myself) that it’s not only for the team but also for your country because people are counting on you,” Mahoungou said.

Every time the 6-foot-3 wide receiver lines up at Ross-Ade, he knows he has to perform; not only for Purdue to win but also because he fears any labels that could befall future French players.

“Everything I do is a reflection of my country,” Mahoungou said. “So I believe that if I don’t play well, it might mess up a chance for a future player. They’ll say, ‘Oh, there was this wide receiver at Purdue from France, and he did not produce so don’t offer that guy.’ I don’t want that. At the end of my career, I want to help the other guys to have a chance like I had. It’s definitely a chip on my shoulder and I carry that with pride.”

That’s why he spends time after practice every day getting extra catching reps. He doesn’t like to bother the quarterbacks, so he grabs freshman wide receiver Ryan James to throw with. Mahoungou said he needs at least 200 reps per day to keep building his hand strength.

However, it wasn’t always like this. As a 16-year-old from Paris, he was one of four players selected from his club team of 400 people to travel to a football camp at Boise State University. At the camp, he was laughed at for his ambitions to play football in America by some of the other players.

“‘Are you here for football or for soccer,’ they would say,” Mahoungou recalled. He “balled out” and proved to the doubters that he belonged. On his flight back to France, he promised himself that he would play football at some level in America.

When he arrived in West Lafayette, Mahoungou struggled to learn the playbook, which split his focus away making plays on the field when he got his opportunities. He caught just 21 passes in his first two seasons at Purdue, a stark comparison to his 12 catches through six games this season. Mahoungou said he has “been able to assimilate to (Jeff Brohm’s) playbook” quickly this season, which allowed him to put all his energy into making the grabs for his team.

“He works his tail off,” co-offensive coordinator Brian Brohm said. “He does everything the way we ask him to do it. He goes hard every single play and never complains. We like the leadership he brings and the effort that he brings. … Guys like throwing the ball to him because they know he’s going to fight for it.”

Clearly, the extra work has paid off because he caught his first career touchdown against Ohio last month and is averaging 18.3 yards per catch, which ranks third in the Big Ten. He also made one of the most important catches of Purdue’s game-winning drive against Minnesota, hauling in a 37-yard catch and run with under two minutes left, to set up Purdue in the red zone.

Despite only recently seeing his hard work translate to production in the box score, Mahoungou has always maintained his focus on helping the next generation of French football athletes have a chance to play D-I football. During Winter Break trips back home, Mahoungou visited club teams around his hometown to coach younger players.

“I like to coach because when I go over there (during Winter Break) they are getting ready for their season,” he said. “I just like to give tips to the wide receivers.”

So, will he continue this tradition once this season is over?

“No, hopefully we’ll be at a bowl game,” he grins. “So, no, I don’t plan on going back till the summer.”

Mahoungou can plan ahead because the Boilermakers are halfway to earning a berth to a bowl game. They will take on No. 7 Wisconsin this weekend on the road, but the lanky receiver will not let wins and losses completely define this season.

“This is my last season. This is the last seven games (of my career), and I don’t want to have any regrets.”

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