Hanging out with his buddies has paid off for Joe Strickland.
"All the work I've put in with my team over the off-season in general from my freshmen year to this year has definitely made the difference," Strickland explained. "It's hard to explain due to all the time put in really, like everybody, the work in the off-season defines you and I definitely agree with that.
Since his arrival at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end has certainly made his presence known on the gridiron with 93 career tackles, including 21.5 for loss, and 11.5 quarterback sacks.
Entering his senior campaign, Strickland had two main goals he wanted to achieve before heading off to Purdue University.
On August 20, he crossed one of them off his list when the Braves downed two-time defending Class 3A state champion Indianapolis Bishop Chatard.
This was especially satisfying for Strickland, who tallied three tackles and three quarterback hurries, considering his club had lost five straight games to the No. 7 (Class 4A) Trojans and were eliminated by them in the post-season the last two years.
Hoping to reach Lucas Oil Stadium and play for a state championship, Strickland continues his quest to achieve his other dream on Friday when No. 3 (Class 3A) Brebeuf Jesuit (1-0) hosts No. 9 (Class 5A) New Palestine (0-1).
However, before trying to claim their first sectional crown since reaching the state title game since 2017, the Braves first have to deal with the likes of defending Class 5A state champion Indianapolis Cathedral and defending Class 4A state champ Indianapolis Roncalli along the way.
"We're extremely confident in our ability to have success, but we still need to play some good teams along the way," Strickland said. "We need to be aggressive and be fast. We are more athletic than many teams, so we need to and will use those factors to our advantage."
After being a complementary performer during his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Strickland got plenty of recognition a year ago when he came up with 50 stops, including 11 for loss, and 6.5 sacks.
"I just continued to grind like nobody cares about what you're doing," Strickland said. "I wanted to be a difference maker and help everyone else around me be successful as well."
All of the hard work didn't go unnoticed as he was presented with more than 20 scholarship offers to choose from before deciding on Purdue.
"Joe Strickland is a young man that has been blessed with many gifts," said Brebeuf Jesuit coach Matt Geske. "Great dedication and work ethic have allowed him to maximize his talent and fulfill his potential. I'm incredibly proud of Joe, the young man he has become and the commitment to his growth as a football player and a person."
Getting the chance to play big-time college football for the Boilermakers isn't the only thing his high school experience has helped Strickland achieve.
"I feel they (Brebeuf Jesuit) have helped me tremendously due to the rigorous academics with the athletic pull as well," Strickland said. "Purdue will be a great transition for me. Their engineering school, along with the in-state development they clearly have made, were huge in my decision to want to go there."
An opportunity to reunite with Purdue defensive line coach Mark Hagen, who had worked with Strickland previously at some summer camps, was another factor in his decision to relocate to West Lafayette, Indiana.
"It's close to home, has my major, a history of developing defensive ends, and is the place I see myself growing the most overall in the long run," Strickland said. "Being an in-state kid who wants to be better than anybody else is something I can to the program. They have great kids which will to allow me to fly around on a swivel and be a difference maker."
No matter what takes place the rest of the 2021 campaign, Strickland has already proven to be a champion both on and off the field.