By Craig Beilfuss
West Lafayette – The Purdue Boilermakers have a reputation in college football for their ability to knock off highly-ranked teams.
It’s happened twice this season as the Boilermakers knocked off then No. 2-ranked Iowa, 24-6, and came back on November 6 and upset the No. 5 ranked Michigan State Spartans, 40-29.
Playing a part in those two upsets was Jacob Wahlberg, a 2019 graduate of Mona Shores High School.
Wahlberg, a sophomore, is getting playing time on special teams and is a second-string middle linebacker. His 2020 season was shortened due to a torn quad, but he’s been making the most of his opportunities at West Lafayette, where he’s felt comfortable since Day 1.
“Coach Brohm and the rest of the staff made it feel like home,” Wahlberg said of his decision. “It felt like a great fit academically and athletically. As a linebacker, I felt like I was a perfect fit for the defense. I always wanted to play in the Big Ten.”
While at Mona Shores, Wahlberg was a three-year starter at linebacker and tight end. He was an all-stater in 2019 and was a captain on the state runner-up team his senior season. He was named Muskegon Area Athlete of the Year. Walhberg recorded 255 career tackles, including 103 as a senior.
But the focus now is on Purdue, which is 6-4 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten.
Last week, the Boilermakers fell to Ohio State. This week, they will battle Northwestern in a game at historic Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Walhberg has seen playing time sparingly this season. He has just four tackles thus far, but he knows his time is coming to earn more playing time.
“I plan on starting at middle linebacker,” Wahlberg said. “I just need to continue to develop and mature as a Big Ten linebacker. Older linebackers will be moving on and passing down the reigns.”
The 6-4, 235-pound linebacker said a highlight of the season, thus far, was knocking off the Spartans.
“It was an incredible feeling taking down our second top 5 opponent of the season,” Wahlberg said. “It also, obviously, felt good being that I am from Michigan, to pull off that win against a really good opponent. I have lots of friends that go to MSU. It was a great feeling.”
Not so great, was the trip that Wahlberg and his Purdue teammates made to Columbus last weekend, where they were routed by the fourth-ranked Buckeyes.
“It was a tough loss,” Wahlberg said. “Ohio State University has a phenomenal offense and team. They’re in the top 4 with a great chance to make the college football playoffs for a reason. It was a game that you have to quickly forget about and move on to the next.”
Wahlberg is currently majoring in sales management at Purdue.
On Saturday afternoon, Wahlberg and the Boilermakers will embark on a trip to Chicago to take on the Northwestern Wildcats at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network starting at noon.
“It is an amazing opportunity that not many players or teams will get to say they have done,” Wahlberg said. “I grew up a Cubs fan and have been to many games at Wrigley, so it will be a very cool experience getting to actually play on the field.”
As for the future at Purdue?
“My goals are to continue to develop and grow into a starting linebacker role and continue to soak in as much as I can along the way,” he said.