Walk-ons are the back bone of a program. They work as hard every other player on the team only they don’t get the floor time. They have to balance the practices, the traveling, the work-outs, all while going to school without the luxury of a scholarship.
They’re beautiful creatures that mark a game as decided.
There’s not many players on Purdue’s squad that draws the kind of cheer that Tommy Luce does when he gets onto the court. Maybe it’s the fact he’s from Indiana, but it’s more likely because he looks exactly how you picture a walk-on to look. Well, that’s not even true. At 5 foot 10 inches and 150 lbs, it’d be easier to mistake him for a manager, but there he is, battling it out in practice with the players who won the Big Ten title by two games last year.
Luce was on the court for 25 minutes last year. He took 5 shots. He scored one point on a made free throw against Western Illinois. He had 4 assists.
But as the case is with walk-ons, we don’t get to see their value. We don’t get to see the sweat they put in. The work ethic they’re capable of maintaining without even the promise of a sliver of the minutes.
It’s not that they’re just happy to be there. That’s not the case at all. They’re happy to be there to push the other players, to make the team better. That’s what walk-ons do. That’s why it’s so exciting to see them get run.
Tommy Luce has taken the mantle as go-to crowd favorite, and every time he touches the ball the fans are waiting to unleash a LUUUUUUUCE.
Those are moments he’ll have for his whole life. It’s easy to fall into the cynicism of sports, particularly college. The FBI findings of paid players and of stripper stipends has made this a difficult year to see the beauty in college athletics. Players like Luce remind us again of the purest parts. While programs spend their dollars and times trying to pay-off 5-star recruits, sliding money into the already greasy pockets of shoe reps and agents, Coach Painter is putting jerseys on good kids.
And those good kids make those six letters on the front of their jersey mean a little bit more with each minute they spend, not on a court, but in life, doing things the right way.
He’s only a sophomore. Hopefully he puts on some weight. Works out those biceps.
He’s got three more years of rings to wear around for the rest of his life.