Troup’s Purnell will be ready
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
If the season resumes, Troup High’s Luke Purnell will be ready.
Purnell is a senior on the Troup baseball team, and he and his teammates are in the midst of a hiatus that will extend at least until April 27, which is the soonest schools across the state will be able to re-open.
Purnell, an outfielder who was having a big senior season for the Tigers, is preparing as if there will be more games to play.
“I think it kind of comes down to who wants it the most,” Purnell said. “Guys that want to play will be in the gym or on their own, or they’ll be doing stuff on their own in their house. Guys who don’t want it as much will use this as a vacation. I know for the most part just about everybody I know has been going hard with it and trying to do what they can on their own.”
Like every other player, the news that the season was going to be put on hold because of the threat of the coronavirus was a tough blow.
Troup’s most recent game was on March 10 when it lost to Northside-Columbus 3-0, and it’ll be more than a month before the team can possibly play again.
“It kind of took the wind out of my sails,” Purnell said. “When you get rolling, you want to keep playing. I wanted to play a game every day, and now I’m just kind of hanging around hitting, working out, waiting on my chance to play again if it comes.”
Still, as discouraging as it may be, Purnell said he’s approaching every day as if there will be more baseball.
“You have to,” Purnell said. “You can’t just give up on it.”
The good news for Purnell is that, no matter what happens the rest of this spring, his time as a competitive athlete will continue beyond high school.
Purnell, a tight end on the football team, will join the Georgia State program as a preferred walk-on this fall. He’ll join forces with a former teammate at Troup, wide receiver Jamari Thrash, who will be a red-shirt sophomore next season.
Purnell thanks Troup head coach Tanner Glisson for helping him earn a spot on the Georgia State roster.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to coach G,” Purnell said. “I went up there for a camp over the summer and got a little interest from them, but nothing really came from it. It was really G. He knows the guys up there. I hit Thrash up and started talking to all their coaches. They offered me a (preferred walk-on spot) because of my grades, and obviously because I can play, too.”
Purnell added that “I had two other options. I had Morehead State, and I had Presbyterian. Presbyterian is in South Carolina, and Morehead State is in Kentucky. I didn’t want to be eight hours from home. You look at Georgia State, and that’s somewhere a lot of people want to be. Their football team is coming together. I can see it growing every time I go there.”
Purnell was a key part of the offense last season as a pass-catching tight end, and as a blocker.
As effective a player as Purnell was in high school, he’s confident that the best is yet to come.
“I’m more excited for what’s going to happen, not what has happened,” Purnell said. “I can start to see it when I do these workouts that they gave me to do. I can see it ahead, and I’m getting pretty excited.”
Purnell has enjoyed some special moments as a member of the Troup football family.
The Tigers made the state playoffs all four years during Purnell’s time in the program, and in 2018 they went 12-2 and reached the state semifinals.
That’s quite a turnaround from 2015 when the Tigers went 1-9 in Glisson’s first season.
“My eighth-grade year, that was (Glisson’s) first year here, the 1-9 season,” Purnell said. “I’m pretty sure every eighth-grader that was in my class felt like we were on the team. We saw everything come together from the bottom up.”
For Purnell, one moment stands out, and that was a 20-17 road win over Cairo in the quarterfinals of the 2018 state playoffs.
“Cairo, that was absolutely insane,” Purnell said. “That was my favorite game that I’ve played in high school. The atmosphere was insane. That whole (playoff) run was just crazy.”
Purnell has also been a part of some good times in baseball that included back-to-back region titles in 2017 and 2018.
Purnell’s senior season was shaping up to be his best, and he believes a more relaxed attitude has allowed him to excel.
“Last year I went up there every at-bat pressing, trying to do something good,” Purnell said. “I messed myself up. This year, I was in a really relaxed state most of the time. I was having fun.”
Purnell’s advice to his younger teammates is to “just play the game and have fun. I’ve got to remind everybody to just have fun a lot. Obviously this hasn’t been the best season we’ve ever had, but when you get guys pressing and trying to hard, it takes the fun out of the game. I try to remind the younger guys that we play better when we have fun.”