There's something different about Raheem Mostert.
He's carrying himself differently than he did a season ago — when he was a running back buried on the Boilermakers' depth chart — and rightfully so. He's heading into this season as a champion.
No, there weren't sweeping NCAA rulings that awarded the 1-11 Boilermakers a national championship. Mostert won a pair of Big Ten titles at the conference track and field championships this spring. The winner of the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash, Mostert can stake claim to the title of fastest man in the Big Ten.
But it's not the speed that will be the biggest benefit to Purdue in Year 2 of the Darrell Hazell Era. It will be Mostert's winning attitude.
"Just not too long ago I had a conversation with (linebacker) Sean Robinson," Mostert explained last week at Big Ten Media Day. "We were coming back from a workout, and he said, 'Raheem, I can see the demeanor that you have right now compared to last year. You want to win, and I think that's going to help us.' I was telling him, 'Hey man, if you just jump on board and understand that, then we're all going to win.' And I think he understands that, as well as my other teammates. They realize, 'If he can do it, then we can do it. Let's get it together.' And that's something that I'm trying to implement into the team to understand that, hey look, once you make it to championship, you're going to want more. And that's how I've felt since I've made it to NCAAs and Big Tens. I want more, and I'm not going to back down."
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Mostert has been playing football since he was 8. A high school coach had to convince him to run track — more than once, actually, after Mostert didn't show up his sophomore year. He's loved running ever since, and it's track that might have the biggest impact on his football career. He's now experienced something his teammates haven't: winning. And he's going to make sure they start.
Of course, while the attitude is the most important thing, the speed is pretty impressive, too.
"Raheem Mostert, you could argue that he's one of the fastest players in college football, period," Robinson said. "He's a nutcase on the track. It's guys like that and leaders who are going to have to step up and translate that stuff to the football field."
Mostert carried the ball just 11 times for 37 yards last season. This year, he's expected to be the starting back. And his phenomenal speed is making the Boilermakers change their offense for him.
"We're going to do some things structurally a little bit different offensively that will help our guys, our personnel," Hazell said. "I think what you're going to see, you know, with Raheem Mostert's success on the track, he was a different player for us this springtime. Played with a lot more confidence. Played more physical. He's probably one of the fastest players in college football this year."
That speed is the kind of X-factor that Purdue needs if its going to elevate itself out of the Big Ten basement. Mostert's winning attitude is changing minds in the locker room. His speed his raising eyebrows on the practice field.
"It's exciting," Robinson said. "Not for me because it's against our defense. But it's not us against us, it's us against the next opponent. So after practice, it's exciting that there are guys like that, and even this summer. He catches the ball out in the flats and turns it up field. You give that look like, 'Man this kid does have some speed.' He can really hurt defenses."
That's the hope. Whether that big difference translates into more wins remains to be seen. But the attitude adjustment is slowly taking place. It's about the only thing Mostert doesn't do at the speed of light.