Pollard becomes first Boilermaker with three blocked kicks

Sept. 11, 2005

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Bernard Pollard seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Pollard, a junior strong safety on Purdue's 13th-ranked football team, established a school career mark for blocked punts Saturday in the Boilermakers' 49-24 season-opening victory over Akron.

The Fort Wayne, Ind., native blocked Billy Sullivan's punt late in the first quarter to become Purdue's first player to record three blocked punts in a career.

Pollard's other two blocks came last season against Ball State and Arizona State in the Sun Bowl. Pollard, Jerod Void and Todd Stelma (1997-98) were previously tied with two.

In 2004, Pollard also registered a blocked extra point and a blocked field goal.

What made Pollard's record-setting block even more exciting was the fact Kory Sheets grabbed it in mid-air and returned it for a 13-yard touchdown.

"A play like that really is an emotional lift that picks up everyone," Boilermaker ninth-year coach Joe Tiller said. "He turns his body and knifes through there. You don't have to give him much of a crack."

Last week, Tiller lamented the fact that Pollard's penchant for punt-blocking forced the Boilermaker special teams unit to rework its blocking scheme after Pollard blocked a kick on three consecutive days.

"We had to actually change our protection," Tiller said. "He went three days in a row and blocked a kick. It was good that he did than but he as a heck of a feel for that.

"Some guys develop a feel and really are good at a particular thing. Bernard has a got a knack special for that."

Pollard, who plays at a high emotional level, also registered five tackles and one pass broken up against Akron.

"It was wide open all day," Pollard said about the opening in Akron's offensive line. "I don't know how I got there. All I know is that I put my hands up and Kory caught it and ran for a touchdown."

Teammate Rob Ninkovich echoed Tiller's assessment of Pollard.

"He's got a great get-off step," he said. "The key to anything is that you have to get off the ball.

"He's good at speed rushing and getting under the ball."

Special teams coach Mark Hagen says the combination of Pollard's speed and his lack of fear make him a tough stop for opposing punting units.

"I think he likes to do it," Hagen said. "Some guys have the athleticism to get to that block point, but there's a fear knowing it's going to hurt.

"But that guy has no fear of anything like that. Bernard has got a special knack for it."

Pollard hadn't realized he set a career record for blocked punts, and promises more the rest of the season.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "We want to have a blocked kick be the difference in pulling out the win.

"We want to be fundamentally sound on special teams. I guarantee that won't be the last this year. There's more to come."