Many fans never knew, or have forgotten, that Purdue was something of a national power back in the 1960’s. With Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese, Leroy Keyes, and Mike Phipps stealing the headlines, the Boilermakers were a tough out for anybody.
The 1966, 1967 and 1968 Purdue Boilermakers had the famous Leroy Keyes at running back. Part of what made Keyes a dangerous weapon running the ball was the fullback right in front of him. Coming in the same recruiting class as Keyes was fullback Perry Williams.
Perry Williams was a quarterback in high school at Cincinnati Withrow High School and he signed with Purdue football coach Jack Mollenkopf.
Purdue had Bob Griese at quarterback already, so Perry Williams was moved to a running back
position. They signed Mike Phipps a year later and kept Williams at running back. He may have been recruited for that position, anyway.
After spending his freshman season on the freshman team, Williams moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore. Leroy Keyes was mostly a cornerback on defense in 1966, and Perry Williams was the team’s leading rusher.
Griese to future NFL player Jim Beirne was a dangerous combination that season with Beirne catching 64 balls for 768 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The Boilermakers lost to ancient rivals, Notre Dame, in game 14-26. But, the Fighting Irish were awesome in 1966, winning the national title with some really talented players like Pro Football Hall of Fame member Alan Page. Plus, future All Pro Linebacker Jim Lynch, Terry Hanratty and Jim Seymour. The Fighting Irish tied Michigan State and they split the national title.
Purdue beat SMU and their passing attack, 35-23, right after the Notre Dame game and Perry Williams ran for 4 touchdowns in leading them to the big win that day. That was a school record at the time.
In their fifth game, the Boilermakers beat always tough Michigan, but then they were blown out by the other national champion, Michigan State, 20-41.
They finished strong to win the rest of their games and finished second in the Big 10. The Conference had a ridiculous rule in those years that the same team couldn’t go to the Rose Bowl two years in a row, and Michigan State had gone the previous season.
The 8-2 Boilermakers represented the Big 10 against the USC Trojans who were the actual champions of their own conference.
But, the Boilermakers led by quarterback Bob Griese and running back Perry Williams pulled the shocker and beat USC, 14-13.
Perry Williams scored both touchdowns. He finished the 1966 season with 689 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. Williams was a power back at about 6-2, 220 and he wore down defenses. A lot of linemen weren’t much bigger than Williams at the time.
The Boilermaker offense was way ahead of it’s time in the college ranks. In 1966, with Bob Griese at quarterback, they played usually a pro style offense with a single back. That single back that season was Perry Williams, and when he wasn’t running the ball he was in pass protection for Griese.
In 1967, with Mike Phipps, they started going to more of an I formation, or with the lone back and a wingback. As the season progressed, they were more in the I formation to take advantage of Leroy
Keyes and his speed. Perry Williams became the fullback.
Their second game of the season in 1967 was against the defending national champions, Notre Dame. The Boilermakers got their revenge by beating the number 1 ranked Fighting Irish, 28-21.
After taking care of the Irish and then Northwestern and Ohio State, the Boilers became the 2nd ranked team in the nation.
However, on October 21st of 1967, the Boilermakers ran into the Giant Killers of Oregon State. Giant Killers
The Beavers shocked Purdue, 14-22. Oregon State also tied top ranked UCLA and beat national champions USC.
Purdue won 4 Big 10 games in a row, but then lost to Indiana, which caused a three way tie between the Boilermakers, Minnesota and Indiana. The Hoosiers got the nod to go to the Rose Bowl because both Minnesota and Purdue had been there more recently. Indiana 1967
Purdue finished their season 8-2 with nowhere to go in the post season because of Big 10 rules.
Perry Williams ran for 746 yards and 11 touchdowns. But, Leroy Keyes moved into the top rusher role with Williams at fullback and Keyes at tailback. Keyes ran for 986 yards and 13 scores. Purdue had realized what they had in Keyes and started to use him more.
The future, 1968, it was time to push Keyes for the Heisman Trophy. Keyes
Perry Williams may have been bypassed by the talented Keyes, he was really good at his role as a fullback. He was a good blocker in the run game and he picked up blitzes well in the passing game, and he ran the ball well.
The expectations were really high for Purdue in 1968. They started the season as the number one team in the country in the polls.
After crushing Virginia in their opening game, the Boilermakers traveled to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. It was the classic number 1 vs number 2 and Purdue came away with an exciting 37-22 win.
In game 3, the Boilermakers destroyed Northwestern.
But, then they ran into Ohio State and the Super Sophomores. The Buckeyes were ranked 4th and they shut down Purdue and upset them, 13-0.
Three games later, they also lost to Minnesota.
Purdue finished the season strong when they beat in-state rival Indiana, 38-35, in one of the best
games of the year.
Keyes finished second in the Heisman voting to the great O.J. Simpson, but Keyes ran for over 1,000 yards and he caught 33 passes including the winning catch against Indiana. His receptions resulted in 428 yards and another touchdown.
Perry Williams touched the ball less in 1968 because of Keyes, and he ran for 553 yards and 9 scores. Williams finished his Purdue football career with right at 2,000 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns. Purdue was 25-6 during Williams playing days and while that doesn’t compare with some of the top programs in the country, it’s a great 3 year record for the Boilermakers.
Williams was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 4th round. The Packers were just coming down from the exciting Vince Lombardi era. He was with the Packers for 5 years and then another year with the Chicago Bears.
Purdue was about Leroy Keyes, Bob Griese and Mike Phipps back in the 1960s and coach Jack Mollenkopf. But, in every program there are always unsung heroes. With the Boilermakers there were guys like Perry Williams. He probably never got enough credit for being a good fullback.