A couple of days after Aidan O’Connell and Jalen Graham represented Purdue in the East-West Shrine Bowl, another former Boilermaker was in action. Tight end Payne Durham took part in the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Alabama.
The Senior Bowl has become the top college football all-star game for players entering the NFL Draft. Over the last five years. the Senior Bowl has seen 482 players who haven partaken in the event get drafted, including 32 first-round picks.
Durham was the lone Purdue product to compete in the event. Charlie Jones and Cory Trice both accepted invitations, but were not on the official rosters. The reasoning behind Jones and Trice’s absences are unknown.
The former Boilermaker was joined by Josh Whyle of Cincinnati and Davis Allen of Clemson as tight ends on the “National” team. Their counterparts on the “American” team were Alabama’s Cameron Latu, Miami’s Will Mallory, Oklahoma’s Brayden Willis and Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave.
Durham impressed during practices over the week and was voted the National team’s tight end Practice Player of the Week in Mobile. The award is voted on by the linebacker and defensive back position groups, who went up against Durham in practice. Durham beat out Whyle and Allen as the top performing tight end on the National team.
The 6-5, 250 pound tight end capped off his great week of practice with a solid outing in the National team’s 27-10 win on Saturday afternoon. Durham hauled in two passes for 24 yards and a two-point conversion. The highlight of Durham’s day was his second catch of the game. He skied over a defender to come down with a 16 yard gain on a pass from Malik Cunningham.
He also lined up in the backfield as a full back on several occasions and got one carry for two yards in that role. Purdue’s second-leading receiver in 2022 was particularly impressive in blocking situations as well. Durham was amongst the best blockers at the tight end position during the week.
In addition to his duties on the offensive side of the ball. Durham played a lot of special teams on Saturday. He was on the punt, punt return and field goal units for the National team. His ability to play several special teams roles will be valuable at the next level as NFL teams put a premium on players who can add that to their typical roles.
Yahoo Sports’ Gavino Borquez was in Mobile and wrote about Durham’s performances on Friday. Borquez said, “the receiving chops carried over to the practice field, as he supplied solid hands with a significant catch radius. In addition, Durham was a force that consistently kicked out defenders in the running game.”
Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network was impressed by Durham’s week as well.
Pauline said, “Enter Payne Durham, who was dominant blocking early in the week then caught the ball extremely well on the final day. He made several nice receptions during end-zone drills and came away with several tough grabs in full scrimmage. Amongst them was a great catch, in a crowd, 25 yards downfield.”
Durham will have two more opportunities to impress NFL coaches, scouts and personnel in the coming months. He will likely participate Purdue’s Pro Day and the NFL Combine ahead of April’s NFL Draft. Purdue has not announced when its pro day will be held, but the NFL combine in Indianapolis is set for March 2nd-5th