Danny Friend caught 33 passes as a varsity football player at Morris Community High School. He caught none as a true freshman tight end on the Indiana University football team.
In the Hoosiers' final game of 2013, a 56-36 win over Purdue, Friend found another way to advance the ball.
"I got just rocked when I went over the middle on one play," Friend said. "They flagged the guy for targeting, which means I earned a 15-yard penalty and a first down for my team. That was probably my offensive highlight for the season."
One major reason for Friend's lack of production is that Ted Bolser, who has 117 career catches at IU, got the majority of the playing time at his position when the Hoosiers used single-tight-end sets.
Friend did play in every game, though until late in the season much of his time came on special teams. He was a mainstay on the field-goal and extra-point teams, and he also played on the kickoff return team. Near the end of the season, Friend says he was also playing "seven or eight" snaps per game at tight end.
Another reason Friend never caught a pass is that he was adjusting to a vastly different level of play – and a vastly different offense – from what he encountered at MCHS, where he was the Morris Daily Herald Player of the Year as a senior.
"At Morris, the offense was slow. We'd huddle before every play. We'd play out of double tight end formations and just run it down people's throats," Friend said. "Here, we're running a play every 25 seconds. We're flying around on the field. It's a big, big adjustment, but I love it."
Being 6-5 and 250 pounds is not quite as big an advantage in college as it is in high school, Friend has found.
"At Morris, we pretty much just threw the ball up. And it worked," Friend said. "Here, you can't do that. I'm definitely going to have to work on my speed and continue to improve at [route running] to be successful."
Working with the Hoosiers' coaching staff and with Bolser for the past several months has already made Friend a significantly better route runner, he says. The loss of Bolser, a redshirt senior, could provide Friend the opportunity to contribute more on offense.
"I mean hopefully I can just go in, and whether I'll be starting or part of a rotation, do the best I can to make plays and do whatever it takes to get W's," Friend said.
Seth Littrell, who coaches tight ends and fullbacks for the Hoosiers in addition to being their offensive coordinator, likes what he has in Friend.
"Danny did a great job for us as a true freshman," Littrell said. "He is a big, strong guy with a lot of talent. Danny has a bright future and we look forward to his continued development."
Friend thinks that the Hoosiers have improved collectively in a manner similar to his personal growth. At 5-7, they just missed out on bowl eligibility, but they equaled their best record since 2007.
"We're very excited for the future and the things to come. People are excited and we're always hearing them talk about the future," Friend said. "I'm confident that we can continue to improve every day. We did that this year, and we'll continue that into the spring and next year."