Boilermaker Bond: Celebrating 50+ Years of Purdue Friendship

Media Thumbnail
  • 0.5
  • 1
  • 1.25
  • 1.5
  • 1.75
  • 2
This is a podcast episode titled, Boilermaker Bond: Celebrating 50+ Years of Purdue Friendship. The summary for this episode is: <p>In this episode of This Is Purdue, we’re talking to former Purdue football players Mike Phipps and Don Kiepert, who played on the iconic late 1960s team under Coach Jack Mollenkopf.</p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This quarterback duo friendship started at Purdue, and the two have been best friends for more than 50 years. After graduating, Mike went on to play quarterback in the NFL for 12 years for the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, while Don had a successful career running multiple pharmaceutical companies.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><br></p><p>You’ll hear Mike and Don share stories about loyalty, persistence and the legacy behind Boilermaker football legend Leroy Keyes.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><br></p><p>Come for the behind-the-scenes history of the 1967 Big Ten championship team, stay for stories only decades of Boilermaker friendship can provide.&nbsp;</p>

Purdue Football Announcer: Phipps drops back on first and 10, and throws a long pass to Dillingham, inside the Notre Dame 20. The first down on the Irish 16 yard line, Phipps spots Dillingham again, this time out to the right, and hits him for a touchdown for the Boilermakers. Now the score is Purdue 23, Notre Dame seven.

Kate Young: Hi, I'm Kate Young and you are listening to," This is Purdue", the official podcast for Purdue University. As a Purdue alum and Indiana native, I know firsthand about the family of students and professors who are in it together. Persistently pursuing and relentlessly rethinking. Who are the next game changers, difference makers, ceiling breakers, innovators? Who are these Boilermakers? Join me as we feature students, faculty, and alumni taking small steps toward their giant leaps and inspiring others to do the same.

Mike Phipps: He's done well, I'm proud of him.

Don Kiepert: Well, thank you. You have too. I'm proud of you.

Mike Phipps: We've kept this great friend. He's my best friend. We love each other and...

Don Kiepert: You're going to make me cry.

Kate Young: 50 plus years of friendship, loyalty. The history and camaraderie behind the iconic late 1960s, Purdue football teams, under coach Jack Mollenkopf. Yes, this story you're about to hear is about football, but it's so much more than that. It's also a story about true friendship rooted in Boilermaker culture, persistence and perseverance. Mike Phipps and Don Keeper were teammates on the 1967 Big 10 championship football team and they're as entertaining and fun as they are humble. Having the chance to interview the two of them interacting together was just pure gold. We'll start at the beginning of their Purdue journeys. Mike is from Indiana and Don hailed from the east coast. So, how did they find out about Purdue and what made them want to be part of this Purdue football team?

Mike Phipps: I grew up in Columbus, Indiana, south of Indianapolis, and the three major schools in Indiana was Notre Dame, Purdue and IU. That's about all the football that I really knew, college football and all that. And the fact that I only got offered two scholarships, one of them was from Purdue and the other was from IU, Notre Dame just didn't show any interest that didn't bode well for me, I guess, or for them, you know, in the future. Purdue, it was an interesting thing for me because I lived in Columbus on my right side, as I remember was a dentist from IU. And on the other side, there was an engineer from Purdue. So as we got closer to making a decision, it was like, I felt like a wishbone really, you know, they were tugging on me both ways and, but Purdue made a really good impression on me. It's funny because one of the things that I remember about Purdue in the campus was the bricks, the brick campuses and all that. I guess it didn't really hurt that I lived in a brick house in Columbus. So that kind of made me feel at home. But I mean, more than that, it just, the first impression I had was the right one. And that usually is the one you go with, there's where I got an offer and I wanted to be there.

Don Kiepert: Yeah. I was quarterback in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and I was recruited and I had multiple schools that I looked at. In fact, I signed a letter of intent to go to Wake Forest, but then I went to Purdue and I met Bob Griese to who was kind of my idol at the time and interviewed with coach Mollenkopf. I got a great sense of commitment and a great sense of values. It was a school I decided I wanted to go to because passing offense was amazing. And it was quarterback Haven and Wake Forest wasn't in the same league. So I ended up coming to Purdue and going to pharmacy school.

Kate Young: After the Boilermakers won the Rose Bowl over USC in 1967, they needed to replace all American quarterback, Bob Griese, who Don just mentioned. So coming into the 1967 season, there wasn't a set quarterback yet. A little background here. Not only were Mike and Don teammates at Purdue, they were both quarterbacks. That's right. They were both vying for that coveted starting QB position.

Don Kiepert: We showed up on campus. There were five quarterbacks that were on scholarship. One of them was going to become the replacement for Bob Griese. So I met him on the practice field, competing with him. And you know, if you're a quarterback, you always think you're the best. You have to think that, you know, we just competed really competed through the competition. We got to know each other really well. Because when you compete with someone, you know about them, you know about who they are, you know about what their character is. You, you know about what their values are. And out of that, we just became, even though we were competing, great friends. Yeah. So we've been friends since the freshman year.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. It seems strange that would happen. He wanted the position. I wanted the position and so did two or three other guys. But as it developed on itself, you know, we all accepted the role. You know, we were a team. That's what made us different. Everybody had a role to play once it was defined, then it was all about winning football games for Purdue. This guy could have played for any other big 10 school and just happened that he picked Purdue. And you know, I was fortunate enough to get the position, but he came in many times when I was nicked up, he saved us a few times.

Kate Young: Mike and Don played for the late Jack Mollinkopf the head football coach at Purdue from 1956 to 1969. Coach Mollinkopf 84 wins at Purdue, placed him first on the school's all time wins list until Joe Tiller passed him in 2008, his teams were nationally ranked for 80 weeks. The most under any Purdue head coach and his 1968 captured the number one spot the first five weeks of that at season. I could tell coach was instrumental in both Mike and Don's lives. They relived some emotional memories with this esteemed Boilermaker coach.

Don Kiepert: A lot of people wondered why coach Mollinkopf was such a great coach. And this story I think tells the story about why he was, he was tough as now really tough the men of guy. But when he spoke, everybody listened. So we're playing Indiana. It was our senior year. We're in the locker room. Jack had cancer at the time and he was at Lafayette home hospital. He decided against medical authority that he was going to put his robe on and come over to the locker room and meet all the players. So he comes in and he's the normal gruffy and starts hugging every player. And he said, how much he loved you and I still cry. I think about it. But that's why he was such a great coach because he demanded a lot. But you knew he really cared about you. Needless to say, that's not the best way to get ready for a big game. You know, Coach Mollinkopk come in and he's hugging everybody. But we did go out and beat him and pretty soundly. But the initial move on the field was we were all thinking about Jack's welfare. And unfortunately the cancer did do him in.

Mike Phipps: Let me add to that one too. I do remember that. I hadn't thought about that one until you brought it up. I was, well, I was in the room of course. And I still remember them raising the gate. There was, remember the chains clanging and there he was. And when it got to the point that I saw my offensive lineman on the floor crying, I mean this believe me, it was going on. I had to get out of there. I mean I left because I had to keep cool. Yeah. Cause we had a game coming up here. So I got out there. I mean, it was very, very emotional. You could tell, we still feel it, but, and then they, we kicked off to them. You know, we left our emotions in the locker room. They ran the ball back. Remember?

Don Kiepert: Yeah.

Mike Phipps: Almost 90 yards, but they didn't score.

Don Kiepert: Yeah.

Mike Phipps: But we regrouped. That was a great game. I remember that one.

Don Kiepert: Yeah. Yeah. It was a great win for us. Lot of coach Mollinkopf stories. I won't go into all of them, but he was a great, great coach and he left a mark on me and Mike I'm. Sure. And, and the rest of the teammates.

Kate Young: Don reminisces on another coach Mollinkopf story. And this time, well coach wasn't so easy on him, but Don says, that's why players loved and respected him. Coach was hard on his players because he cared about them. I can tell your coach means a lot to you, both. What would you say? The number one lesson that he instilled in you both was?

Don Kiepert: We're playing Northwestern. This is a quick story, but I think it's so relevant because it says who Jack Mollinkopf was. Scores 42-6. I was a backup. I wanted to be the starter, right? Everybody does. So coach says, Hey Donny, go in. He called me Donny, go in now. So I went in and I went back and I could've run the ball and I tried to sneak it in and a linebacker picked it off. So I'm thinking 42-7, no big deal. So I'm coming off the field, from like the 30 yard line. And I see Jack running down the sideline, he had his London fog coat on and his hat and always dressed really nice. He grabs me and he used a few expletives. I'm not going to see what they were. And he grabbed me and he says, look, if you ever give up your own personal pride, no matter what the score is, you can never do that. So most coaches would've just said, oh no big deal. You go off the field. They pat you on the back. But Jack cared about me. I got angry by the way, when he did that, because I felt bad. But what he did for me, he did it because he cared about me and that's the way he treated the players. He was tough as nails. But everybody knew that he cared about you and that created such a spirit within the organization. That's kind of the story I remember about.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. And I remember that too. And I thought, oh gee, you know, I felt so bad for Don after that happened it's like he just trying to be a quarterback, you know? But exactly what Don said. He had a lesson to tell Don.

Don Kiepert: The message got across, It never happened again. He actually said to me, if you ever do that again, you won't play ping pong for me. Yeah. Right. So I, the message is loud and clear, but it's about personal pride and always expect the most from yourself. Not the least. So he was an amazing coach. Part of all these little stories are why he was such a great coach.

Kate Young: Okay. So you wouldn't know it by listening to him, but Mike Phipps is a big deal and he's an absolute Purdue football legend. Besides being part of the 1967 big 10 championship winning team, he was the first Purdue quarterback to beat Notre Dame three years in a row. And a two time first team, all big 10. Mike was also selected first team academic, all American in 1969 received the big 10 medal of all honor in 1970 and was the recipient of one of the most prestigious international scholarships, the Rhode scholarship. Oh. And he was a Heisman trophy runner up in 1969 Phipps and the Boilermakers were even featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated after a huge win against then number one, ranked Notre Dame, marking the first time per Purdue graced the cover of the popular sports magazine. A four page article about the game was called" Purdue does a number one job against number one". After that game, coach Mollinkopf said, quote, that was awfully sweet. When you have a bunch of kids that fight that and never give up against number one, you've got a real football team. Mike's name still appears in the Purdue record book more than 60 years after he finished his college football career. And he was inducted into the Purdue intercollegiate athletics hall of fame in 1995 and the college football hall of fame in 2006. But even after all of the success during his years at Purdue, Mike told me a career in professional football was never really part of his plan.

Mike Phipps: I took my education very seriously. And so did Don. I mean he was preparing for a future after Purdue. So was I. I really had no inclination coming to Purdue about playing professional football. I just wanted to be a big 10 quarterback that never entered my mind. And it wasn't really until my senior year that I realized, yeah, maybe I had a chance, you know, but I'm kind of getting off that, the reason I said that is because the education was the most important thing to me. I went into the business school Krannert and I had one tutor. I think it was in cost accounting. His name was David Fuete. We became friends and he went off to be the CEO of Office Depot. And so he had a real successful career and I think of him and the friendship we had over the years. But again, I accomplished a lot on the football field, but I think one of the best awards I got was, you know, academic, all American, that was kind of special.

Kate Young: I also read, you turned down a Rhode scholarship.

Mike Phipps: I did.

Kate Young: What was going through your mind? How did you make that position at?

Mike Phipps: Well, I was going to get drafted football and that's just where I was going to go. The Rhode scholar. I didn't really realize how X were distinguished. Yeah, yeah. That was, I found out afterwards that, oh, I played 12 years. So I was after that, I, you know, took a break, I guess it was still been available for me to go, but I never even thought about it. I was 36 years old and I was, I thought I had learned about all I needed to learn from that point on. But yeah, that was an honor. I saw how I used it. I'm

Kate Young: Yeah.

Don Kiepert: I guess in your first round pick in the NFL draft.

Kate Young: Yeah. I's pretty easy decision that. Yeah. So after he turned down that chance to study at university of Oxford in the UK, through the Rhode scholarship, Mike found himself heading into the NFL. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the third overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft. And what Mike says about his experience in the NFL surprised me. It wasn't always all that it's cracked up to be. He discusses the pressures of being an NFL quarterback.

Mike Phipps: I went to Cleveland in 1970 for me to get to Cleveland and first round pick, they had to trade up to get that pick. They traded Paul Warfield. Paul Warfield was an all pro. He was born in Ohio. He went to Ohio state. I mean, he was just the icon. And so they traded Paul to get me, as I said, I walked into a really hornets nest in many ways, the expectations were really elevated, but you just don't walk in professional football and deliver. So I had to win back a lot of the fans and trust me a lot of the players since Paul was so popular and he was a great football player. Yeah. I didn't get the warmest reception. So I mean, I had to win the team over. That was the challenge I had never been booed in my life at Purdue.

Kate Young: They would boo you?

Mike Phipps: Oh yeah. Oh, oh yeah. That was

Kate Young: How many games in a row until you won over the trust and the...

Mike Phipps: I mean it wasn't every game they expected a lot. Cleveland, the fans were just phenomenal fans. They just expected to win and it didn't always go that way. Did I ever get used to that? It really does motivate you. You say, well, boo me now, then, you know, at the end of the game, we'll see where you're at. You know, that was an adjustment I had never had you ever been booed before?

Don Kiepert: I mean I never played professional football.

Mike Phipps: No, I know, but I mean-

Don Kiepert: Never been booed.

Mike Phipps: So, I mean, it was like, what is this? You know, that's one reason it was different. I can't say it was football. I enjoyed it. I did my, the very best I would prepare, but you know, the outcomes weren't as like they were at Purdue all the time. We had some great years at Cleveland, but it just, I don't want to get into the great details of my career there. But you know, I ran its course there in seven years. Then I just said, you know, it's time for me maybe to have a change of scenery, which I thought maybe would be good for Cleveland and me. And so I got traded to Chicago and played five years there and finally said, you know, it's 12 years. Professional football is not what everyone thinks it is. Think it's a very glamorous position. You'd be the envy of everyone else. I can tell you that it's not that way. It's very pressure filled. It's hard work. And it's funny too, because this just popped into my mind when I retired and I did it on my own, because I just had lost the passion for it. And you always get that question. You hear, do you miss it? You know, it's like, do you miss it? And somebody asked me that and I said, you know, I was as happy or happier the day I retired than the day I first got drafted and it's like, he, he looked at me. He said, how can that be? You know, it's like, you don't understand professional football and the pressure that we are under, particularly the quarterback. I mean, it's like that everybody sees what you do.

Kate Young: How did you overcome those challenges and get your mind straight when you're walking into those games?

Mike Phipps: Well, you just focused you. Well, first of all, you prepared. I mean, we never went into a game at Purdue thinking we were going to lose. That thought-

Don Kiepert: Jack instilled that in us. Yeah. I mean, not maybe you're going to win. There's no way you're going to. Yeah.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. So we were prepared and as quarterbacks, we never liked surprises. We always knew what the defense were going to do. And if they made this adjustment, we were going to do that. So it's not, we weren't going to be caught off guard. I don't think we ever were caught off guard.

Don Kiepert: No, we were very well prepared.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. So I guess I'm kind of getting off track, but you have to prepare, you know, so you focus on that when you get into the game, I blocked out everything, the fans and all that. I really did. You, you have to.

Kate Young: Mike went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL with the Browns from 1970 to 1976. And then the Chicago bears from 1977 to 1981. He ended his career with 10, 506 passing yards and 55 touchdown passes. Don and Mike's close friendship continued after graduation, of course, although the two took entirely different paths in life. Don shares the duo's annual fishing trip ritual before Mike started each NFL season.

Don Kiepert: What we did was before the season started, we would go on a fishing trip and we'd spend the whole week in the boat and we'd be talking about what are the things that are going to be really be important for you to make this team what it can be. And we would talk about that. And we'd talk about he's the strong leader. I mean, Mikes a leader, he was a leader through example. He wasn't a big word guy, but on the field he'd led by example, like leading Leroy Keys around the end and blocking three people, you know? So we would do that every year before the season. One year he was negotiating a contract, so we talked about how you going to get the deal done. You know, one of those things.

Kate Young: And as for Don, well, he didn't go on to play professional football. He found distinguished, meaningful success off the field with his Purdue pharmacy degree.

Don Kiepert: I was the only football player in the pharmacy school. And I had a professor named Dr. Gilbert Banker who ran the pharmaceuticals group. And he was the one who encouraged me to go to graduate school. And he was part of the faculty advisor group for athletics. So he was kind of the guy that if he thought I needed some pat on the back or whatever he would call me in. And he was the reason I ended up going graduate school. So he left a mark on me.

Kate Young: I asked Don, who founded 12 healthcare companies, how his Purdue education prepared him for life after graduation.

Don Kiepert: I would talk about two things. Number one, being on a championship football team, probably that prepared me more for business than anything. Even more than my educational work. I mean you below the commitment, the preparation, the teamwork, all of those things are inherent to running a successful company, knowing how to pull people together, develop the right strategy, not give up as an entrepreneur. You can't give up. All of that gave me a foundation that was really important. And then the pharmacy school and to this day is still top five, I think, they instilled such a professionalism and ethical commitment because I've run a couple pharmaceutical companies and the ethics has always been there and then the commitment to patient care. So with those two, you know, I feel so committed to doing whatever I can to support Purdue because they gave me the foundation for me to build the career off of, which has been great. I think I did talk about the foundation championship team and pharmacy school. I've been able to springboard those, leverage that and been a successful entrepreneur in healthcare and importantly, work on therapies and technology that really helps promote patient care. I mean, save lives. So that basis has given me that skillset to be able to go out and make that happen.

Kate Young: And what is that mean to you that you have such the meaningful career path that you're actually impacting other people's lives?

Don Kiepert: I kind of like to look at it this way, because I've started 12 companies in healthcare and I'm still on boards and stuff. So I still invest in private companies, but I only get involved in projects where I can put money in my pocket, put something in my heart. Like I'm working on a drug for autism right now. And, and these kids fragile X in particular, they're the most extreme case of autism and there's no therapies to treat them. And we have two that we're working on. For me to be able to be involved in that even if I didn't make any money, if I could help these kids that would fill me up inside, I've been blessed. I've been very fortunate.

Mike Phipps: And he is really good at what he does.

Kate Young: You can probably tell by now that both Mike and Don's experiences at Purdue means so much to them and truly set them up for success. The two are still involved with Purdue as president's council members, part of the Purdue for life foundation. So what does it mean to them to continue to support Purdue after all these years? You are both here for the president's council weekend. You guys have been friends for over 50 years. What does it mean to still be involved in this Purdue community the way that you both are?

Don Kiepert: Well, I think because Purdue has meant so much to me, I want to see it continue to be very successful. I want to see the football program nine and four is not bad. It's pretty good. Yep. I want to see, continue to grow. The reason is students like to go to university that have successful athletic program, like our basketball team this year. So I think it adds so much to the spirit and also the recruitment of students and to the pride of being part of that kind of an organization. So for me being part of a championship team and come back and see another championship team feels really, really good. It's hard to describe the feeling, but it makes you feel proud.

Mike Phipps: Well, ditto to that, what's interesting when I've come back to these events is that they always have a, another player from another generation. They had Dustin there yesterday, Dustin Keller hearing his story. And before that there was a couple other guys that you could sense that they had the same experience that we did and the impact that it had on their lives. And so I just see it carrying down from the days that we were here before us. I'm sure it was the same continues to go on. You know, what drives that? I don't know. There's just something special here that I don't know if you can describe it, but you certainly can feel it. And when you get back with the Purdue family, you feel good and you walk away feeling better, you know?

Kate Young: And you guys mentioned the football record. Are you still following the program closely with coach Brohm?

Don Kiepert: Sure, absolutely. I think this was a breakthrough year, transformational year and the offense has always been absolutely great. So we're hopeful that he'll continue this year with next year and even better. I think he's doing a great job.

Mike Phipps: It's Purdue football still in our hearts? Absolutely. It's always going to be that way. I agree with Don that this was a breakthrough year for Purdue. A couple years ago, we beat Ohio state at Ross- Ade and that was the turning point for the program. And you know, we hit some bumps in the road after that, but we had high expectations as fans. I see it back now. I think we come back and turn the corner.

Don Kiepert: I see it.

Mike Phipps: But you know, that's last year you have to build on that. Everything's changed, you know, you got new players. Now we have four new coaches for the next season. There's moving parts. You try to build off what you've done last year, but there's no guarantees for next year, but we're very optimistic.

Kate Young: And speaking of Purdue football program, Mike and Don try to get back to campus for a game each year, usually on homecoming. Don discusses, why it's so special for them to see old teammates and continue to foster relationships more than five decades in the making. Do you guys still go back for tailgates or do you have any traditions when you're watching a Purdue game or superstitions or anything?

Don Kiepert: Well, we go back normally for homecoming and probably the highlight of that Isn't so much a game it's seeing my teammates because when you go through playing ball with someone, no matter if it's 55 years ago, there's a bond that you make that's like nothing else and a friendship because you know them down inside, they know you, they know what you stand for and it's so much fun to do that fellowship again. So yeah, we go back for homecoming typically.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. I still remember riding bus in to Ross- Ade when we were playing home and you'd, you'd see all this tailgating going on. He, so I want to get into that. So I want to get into, you know, how are we going to do that? You know? I know-

Don Kiepert: I know.

Mike Phipps: And we've caught up, I think so we're I really enjoy that part of it too.

Don Kiepert: When I think about Purdue, I think about it being a rock, it's a rock and you know, a big, big rock that stands for so many great things and you can't move it because it's there and it goes so deep. The roots are so deep to all the students that went there, that it made something out of themselves and a lot of successful people from Purdue and it gives people the foundation to be able to do whatever you want to do, you know? And the student athletes, I would talk to them and say, Hey education, education, education. Right?

Kate Young: Right. Because football eventually ends. Right?

Don Kiepert: Yeah. For me it did

Mike Phipps: Well, me too.

Don Kiepert: For him too.

Kate Young: You're not still playing?

Don Kiepert: No, he, he can't go deep anymore. Yeah.

Kate Young: So what would you say to students and maybe even particularly the football team members right now as young students, what advice would you guys give them?

Don Kiepert: I would say 150% on the field, 150% in class. And they're both equally important because there's such a small number that make it into the pros. You want to be able to leverage the educational opportunity and Purdue, it keeps going up in the rankings like the pharmacy school stop five Krannerts improved. So that's, I think the message I would give, give it 150% and make friends. Cause when you graduate your ability to network, because my career networking has been the most important thing to be able to call somebody up and say, Hey, what about this? So network make friends excel in academics and on if you're on the team 150%.

Mike Phipps: Well I agree with Don, the mindset of the athletes today are different. Especially coming in, because they all have ambitions. They're all going to play professional football. I mean, that's just what they think, but it's not going to happen. And so you do have to prepare, he said 150% on both the field and that it's absolutely true. I didn't even say I would advise them to give maybe this doesn't sound right, but to give more to the academic side. I did because I didn't have any idea I was going to get in professional football. The odds are so stacked against you. And I think they have a lot of disappointing players that they're not going to make it, but there's something about Purdue that you really gravitate to the education and the academics. And I think that's really, what's vital for your success outside of Purdue.

Kate Young: When you read into both Mike and Don's Purdue football highlights and accomplishments, another name frequently comes up as well. Purdue football icon, Leroy Kees. Let's go back to a couple Purdue football games in the late 1960s

Purdue Football Announcer: And with the ball on the Purdue 44 yard line, Phipps drops back is chased wide right and pulls a running 60 yard pass the Leroy Kees for another Purdue touchdown that brought the Boilermakers within striking distance. On the next play Kees takes a Keepered pitch and skirts right in for eight yards, Three plays later Keepered again, pitches to Kees who cuts inside right end finds daylight and goes all the way down the sidelines for a 51 yard touchdown run. This score gave Purdue the lead over the Hawkeys 12 to seven

Kate Young: Leroy a two time all American finished third in the 1967 Heisman trophy voting. And second in the 1968 Heisman trophy voting. After playing in the NFL, Leroy worked for the John Purdue club and later became an assistant athletic director for Purdue. When I ask Mike and Don about the Boilermaker spirit, Leroy and his legacy came up along with the hole in their hearts. After his passing in April of 2021, What is the Purdue community and that Boilermaker spirit? If you had to summarize, what does that mean to you both?

Don Kiepert: Well, I can tell when you come back to college and you stop at the chocolate shop, because we know her, so and Mary quite well. We used to know when it was dirty Harry's by the way, and you go to, you have a beer and it's the day before a game and the students are there and the vitality and the enthusiasm and it's contagious. It just fills you up with spirit. And I'd love to see that now this year with the winning team, it was a lot better than it's been. So I think it's inspirational. It makes you feel good. Makes you feel proud of being part of Purdue again. And when you see, when we see our teammates, it's a renewal, renewal of friendships.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. Unfortunately there's a few of us left, you know? I mean every year it, we lost a great one. Leroy, really did.

Kate Young: Tell us about Leroy and what it was like, you know, with him as your teammate.

Don Kiepert: Leroy, instead of talking about him as maybe the goats, I'd rather talk about him as a man because his value system was impeccable. He was inspirational to everybody he talked to and one of the speeches yesterday, he just told it all Leroy was kind of person, no matter how bad you were feeling, when you talked to him and you left, you felt good. And he was a Christian, very religious, spiritual guy. And his legacy will be with the school for a long time. What he stood for Mr. Purdue, football. That's what I would

Mike Phipps: Yesterday. They did that video of Leroy at the brunch. And there was one picture of Leroy, myself, Neil Armstrong. And I think it was Gene Cernan. Yeah. Cernan. Yeah. And coach Mollinkopf. This was after the game, Texas A and M we won 24 to 20. It was my first game was, you know, college. And, and I think back there I am shaking the hands with the first band that landed on the moon. I mean really? And that was a real special moment for me. And I had completely forgot about it, but I visualized it again. And it was like, wow, you know, this is a special photo. Everything Don said about Leroy is accurate. You mean, you felt good about him. The fact that he wasn't there yesterday, I felt it. And-

Don Kiepert: I felt a hole there. Yeah. But part of he's success, a lot of people don't know this most quarterbacks don't like the block too much. When we ran that Leroy give the ball to Leroy toss and he'd let it, he was like a pulling guard. So he blocked, I mean, he was part of the formula for Leroy success and he really went around the corner and cleaned it out.

Mike Phipps: You want to hear us story about that? How that happened? They didn't tell me, well, they didn't tell either one of us. Okay. You pitched the ball to Leroy and then you ran in front of, you know, and you block or just kind of getting in the way. Well, I think was one in one of our spring practices, I was in did the toss sweep to Leroy. So I go around and there's one of the defensive ends that just cracked down me on me and just lit me up. You know, it looked like I blocked him, but I guess got really smoked, you know, and coach DuMoss jumped up way to go, Mike, they call, they didn't call us by name. They called 15 or whatever. That was the, that was how we were described way to go 15, you know? And I thought, okay, I can go back to the huddle and here's, here's the high, he says way to go flip. I said, oh, thanks a lot. I thought he was giving me kudos for doing this. He said, no, you idiot. He said, they're going to expect me to do that.

Don Kiepert: Yeah, exactly. I was not the best blocking quarterback.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. But it just, you know, I enjoyed doing it. Nobody would ask you to do that today as a quarterback. It's just like, no, but again, I played defense and it wasn't anything for me to get in the way of somebody and block them it was kind of fun actually.

Kate Young: So when you see your teammates back here, back at homecoming, do you guys reminisce?

Don Kiepert: And oh my God, the stories keep getting better. It's like this, you know, you know, fishing, you catch a fish this big, get that. Oh yeah. That's why we'd love to see each other because oh, there's so many stories about coach Mollinopf we had a very, very distinguished team physician named Doc Combs. There's a lot of stories about him and then a lot of stories about the players. Yeah. And it's so much fun to reminisce. That's that's why it's great to come back for homecoming.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. There's a lot of stories you forgot about that. Somebody jogs your memory. You don't want to remember. Yeah.

Kate Young: You block them out yeah. This interview was so memorable for myself and our this is Purdue team, but I think my favorite part of this interview was watching these two friends rave about each other's successes. Mike and Don's friendship is simply friendship goals.

Mike Phipps: Yeah. I mean, what can you say? It's it, our experience at Purdue, both of us is hard to describe the results. What makes Purdue special? I think it attracts the people with a lot of character and good people. When they walk away, they're much better. They're more developed. They're enthusiastic attack of career here and there. This guy's done phenomenal. It's funny because he starts talking to me about the projects that he's doing and he gets into the scientific mode and he starts describing things to me. Like I think he's speaking in tongues as far as I concerned, but it's amazing. He's done well. I'm proud of him.

Don Kiepert: Well, thank you. You have too. I'm proud of you. I used to go to the locker room after his game sometimes and I always felt so proud of him.

Kate Young: Was it like to support him, you know, in this top tier league?

Don Kiepert: Well, I wanted to get in fights when I heard the boos. I, but I used to go in the locker room after the game and met Payton and yeah, I was so proud of him. I mean, I really was proud of him and I would go to some of the games with his wife, Carol would go with me and it was an exciting, exciting, yeah. Thing to do. So yeah, we've kept this great friends. He's my best friend. We'd love you each other. And

Mike Phipps: They're going to make you cry.

Kate Young: We're so thankful Mike and Don share their stories with us. If you'd like to watch our full video interview with Mike and Don in Naples, please head over to youtube. com/ purdue. Trust me, you do not want to miss out on watching these two in action. Thanks for listening to this is Purdue. For more information on this episode, visit our website at purdue. edu/ podcast. There you can head over to your favorite podcast app to subscribe and leave us a review and as always boiler up.


In this episode of “This Is Purdue,” we’re talking to former Purdue football players Mike Phipps and Don Kiepert, who played on the iconic late 1960s team under Coach Jack Mollenkopf.  

This quarterback duo friendship started at Purdue, and the two have been best friends for more than 50 years. After graduating, Mike went on to play quarterback in the NFL for 12 years for the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, while Don had a successful career running multiple pharmaceutical companies.  

You’ll hear Mike and Don share stories about loyalty, persistence and the legacy behind Boilermaker football legend Leroy Keyes.  

Come for the behind-the-scenes history of the 1967 Big Ten championship team, stay for stories only decades of Boilermaker friendship can provide.