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32 DAYS TO 2023 KICKOFF: Desmond Purnell

In which BracketCat counts down the 32nd day until the 2023 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State linebacker Desmond Purnell.

#32 Desmond Purnell
Linebacker Desmond Purnell (32) had a fantastic debut season as a freshman in 2022. Will he be able to avoid a sophomore slump as he transitions into a full-time starter at strongside LB in 2023?
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

#32 Desmond Purnell

Redshirt Sophomore | 5-11 | 224 lbs. | Topeka, Kansas
Desmond Purnell
Desmond Purnell
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Starter
  • Status: On Scholarship

Desmond Purnell (b. Jan. 29, 2001) is a speedy, two-star defensive back-turned-linebacker from Hayden High School in Topeka who is majoring in athletic training and rehab sciences.

He redshirted in 2021 as a defensive back made the transition to linebacker prior to 2022, entering the season as the primary backup strongside linebacker behind Khalid Duke.

Purnell played in every game — including a start against Oklahoma State — during the Big 12 Championship season as he totaled 21 tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against South Dakota and had a season-high five tackles at West Virginia, while he carded three apiece against South Dakota, at Iowa State and in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.

Purnell had two pass breakups at Iowa State, when he was forced to play on a career-high 58 plays due to other injured defenders, and then recovered a fumble against Kansas.

He earned Academic All-District honors from College Sports Communicators and was a first-team Academic All-Big 12 performer following the season.

Purnell prepped under head coach Bill Arnold at Topeka Hayden, where he was viewed as the sixth-best prospect in the state of Kansas for the Class of 2021 by 247Sports.

He was a finalist for the 2020 Kansas Class 3A Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year honors by Sports in Kansas, while the organization voted him a first-team all-state honoree.

Purnell also was a first-team all-state selection as a senior by The Wichita Eagle as both a junior and a senior, and he earned first-team all-state honors as a senior and honorable mention accolades as a junior from The Topeka Capital-Journal.

He totaled 811 rushing yards, 469 receiving yards, and 22 total touchdowns as a senior to go along with 80 tackles for the Wildcats and was named the 2020 city offensive player of the year for Topeka, a community which still holds a great interest in his career progression.

Purnell, who was a late addition to the 2021 class after signing his Letter of Intent that Feburary, picked K-State over interest from South Dakota. His lead recruiters were recruiting coordinator Taylor Braet and defensive coordinator/safeties coach Joe Klanderman.

His older brother, Lorenzo, played football at Pittsburg State. Here’s what K-State head coach Chris Klieman had to say about the younger Purnell scion after he signed with KSU:

Desmond Purnell, I was able to go and watch him play [against Manhattan]. I thought he was the best kid on the field that day. He really piqued my interest, and I kept watching clips that were sent to me. When I saw him live, I thought there was a kid that will have an impact on our program.

Following his breakout season in 2022, here’s what Klieman had to say at Big 12 Media Days:

Des had a really good season last season. I love seeing Topeka kids have the success he’s having. He’s one of the core guys on our football team that bleeds K-State and leads our culture of what we’re doing. He split time with Khalid Duke when we moved Khalid to full-time defensive end because I think it’s more his natural position. That does amplify Des’ role tremendously, as well as on special teams. Austin Moore and Daniel Green are the leaders of the linebacker corps, but he needs to be the next guy that’s going to lead when those two guys go, as well as be one of the leaders on special teams.

A budding business leader, Purnell had a neat opportunity in 2022 to attend the Men of Color National Summit at the Greenville Convention Center in Greenville, South Carolina.