Taylor Stubblefield has been a college football assistant since 2007, but Thursday night will be very unique for him.
Stubblefield, 40, will coach at Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time when Penn State takes on Purdue, where he played as a wide receiver from 2001-04.
He’s in his third season on James Franklin’s Penn State team working with wide receivers, of course. Thursday night will be a homecoming for him.
“I really see him as another opponent,” Stubblefield said. “We often talk about the 1-0 mentality. It’s not about them. It’s about us. This game has nothing to do with me. This is really not the case.
Stubblefield had a stellar career at Purdue, finishing with an NCAA record 325 receptions for 3,629 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Playing with quarterback Kyle Orton, he had 89 catches for 1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior in 2004, when he was named a consensus All-American, a first-team All-Big Ten pick and a Biletnikoff Prize finalist.
He mostly deflected questions this week about his return to Purdue, except when asked about former Boilermakers assistants Ted Gilmore, Kevin Sumlin and Bob DeBesse, who inspired him to become a coach.
DeBesse was best man at Stubblefield’s wedding and, as offensive coordinator in New Mexico, he was instrumental in signing the Lobos in 2012. DeBesse was Purdue’s wide receivers coach from 2003 to 2004 .
“You have a unique opportunity as a coach because you’re around these guys (players) a lot,” Stubblefield said. “You become more of a mentor to them. That’s what Coach DeBesse was to me. Even now, we talk a little.
“The relationship grew from player-manager to real friends. He meant a lot to me. I bounced almost every idea from him. He was just there for me.
Stubblefield said he first became interested in coaching while watching his father, Mel, mentor the women’s basketball team and serve as a football assistant at AC Davis High School in Yakima, Washington.
“I probably got it (the workout bug) at a young age,” he said. “My brother is a junior basketball coach at Bellevue College in Seattle. It’s probably more ingrained in my family than I realize.
“I thought at one point in college that I would either go into business, which I did as a mortgage broker for a bit for a year and a half, or I would go into coaching. The housing market sort of crashed in 2008, so that kind of helped me lean into this profession.
Stubblefield seemed more determined to talk about the performance of Penn State wide receivers Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Mitchell Tinsley and others on Thursday than about his return to his alma mater.
“I’m excited to see my guys play,” he said. “There are going to be new faces in all areas. It will be an electrical environment.