When two former Indiana Mr. Footballs from Columbus East were on opposite sides for Saturday’s Purdue-Cincinnati battle, the current Olympians team was there to see it.

While the Bearcats came away with a 38-20 victory at Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium, nearly 40 East varsity players were in the front few rows.

“It was a great trip,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “It was a long way there, but our guys seemed to have a good time. We got rained on a little bit, but nobody complained about the weather. It was a great environment for college football, and some of them had never been to a Division I football game.”

Prior to the game, the Olympians went through the experience that Purdue recruits go through. They sat through a presentation on the university, saw its new facility for football and learned about academic requirements and tutor support.

When they were finished, the players got to go onto the sidelines and see the teams warm up on the field.

“It was a really good experience,” senior linebacker T.C. O’Neal said. “It was great to go through the recruiting process that if you were a prospect you would do. Then talk to some of the coaches and see what they have to say and have those nice seats right behind their bench.”

At least one of East players might have a chance to play in Ross-Ade Stadium a couple of times. Senior center Harry Crider has committed to Indiana University.

The Boilermakers and Hoosiers annually meet the final game of the regular season the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

“I got an up-close and personal look at what Big Ten college football is like,” Crider said. “It was a learning experience for a lot of us.”

The Olympians were at the game to see the only two Mr. Footballs in program history. Gunner Kiel, who was honored in 2011, is a backup quarterback for Cincinnati, and 2014 Mr. Football Markell Jones is the starting tailback for Purdue.

Jones carried 15 times for 47 yards and caught three passes for two yards before leaving the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. Jones’ father, Jym Jones, said Monday that it was diagnosed as a sprain.

“He told me it felt much better (Monday) than (Sunday),” Jym Jones said. “They called it a minor sprain.”

Jym Jones said it’s too early to tell if Markell would be able to play in the Boilermakers’ next game Sept. 24 against Nevada. Purdue is off this week.

East senior offensive tackle Jared Clark was glad to have the chance to see Jones play in a big-time game.

“That was a lot of fun for our team, and it was really awesome that our coaching staff allowed us to do that,” Clark said. “It’s really good to see the people at the next level go through their games and how they practice and how they get focused and all that kind of stuff. It’s really something that we can bring back to our games here.”

Crider agreed.

“It was a really unique experience, and I’m glad that we got to do it my senior year here,” Crider said. “I’m really glad for coach Gaddis giving us that opportunity. It was a really fun time, especially for the younger guys who had never been to a game like that. It was special to a lot of people.”

At a glance

Columbus East junior quarterback Josh Major is expected to return to action on Friday when the Olympians visit New Albany.

Major sustained a concussion in the Olympians’ 30-13 loss at Columbus North on Aug. 26. He has not played the past two weeks.

Senior wide receiver Caleb Voelker moved to quarterback and led East to home wins against Seymour and Jennings County.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.