We asked you guys to vote, and you came through. In fact, you did a better job than I did. I completely forgot to list one of the choices that might have ended up being the top story of the year. It was not in our poll because I forgot.
The passing of Joe Tiller.
So, let’s give Cowboy Joe the top spot in this article before counting down the top 10. The legendary coach changed the way football was played in the Big Ten. He is often credited as bringing the forward pass to the mansome conference. No one knew what to do against Purdue in those early years when we had five wide receivers and some guy named Drew Brees chucking the ball everywhere. After nearly two decades of mostly awful football he made Purdue relevant.
That makes it more fitting that Purdue returned to respectability in the year of his passing.
Joe is going to be missed. It is my hope that some time in the coming year a more permanent memorial is named. If Purdue were to name the playing field after him it would be fitting. As I mentioned back in October when he passed, he is largely responsible for this community you guys enjoy right here. There probably is not a Hammer & Rails if Joe Tiller had not given me a magical four years of football when I was in West Lafayette. It is because of him that I got to see the promised land of Purdue in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
Thank you, Joe Tiller. Good ride, Cowboy.
9. (tie) Rob Ninkovich Wins 2nd Super Bowl Ring – 1 vote – The first overtime in Super Bowl history and an epic 28-3 comeback worked out very well for one Boilermaker. Rob Ninkovich was able to close out his career with a second Super Bowl ring earned with the New England Patriots. All told he played 11 seasons, eight with the Patriots, and in four Super Bowls in his time in New England. He totaled 46 sacks, five interceptions, and 10 forced fumbles before retiring this summer.
9. (tie) Danielle Cuttino Named All-American in Volleyball – 1 vote – Once again, Purdue was among the nation’s best in volleyball. The season ended with a second round NCAA loss at Utah, but Purdue was in the top 20 nationally almost all season. Of course, the Big Ten is merciless. Nebraska won the National title. Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan State spent much of the season in the top 10 if not top 5. Through it all Cuttino was one of the best players in American, and was the program’s fourth First Team All-American ever.
7. (tie) Purdue Men’s Golf Reaches NCAA Championships – 5 votes – Purdue has long been a golf school, and this year the men took advantage of playing the NCAA regional at home to reach the NCAA Championships. Once at the championships Purdue placed 28th out of 30 on the tough Sugar Grove course. It is still a positive thing to build on, as only Purdue and Illinois qualified for the NCAA championships from the Big Ten.
7. (tie) Maddy Williams Named All-American in Soccer – 5 votes – Williams helped a Purdue resurgence as the soccer Boilers returned to the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue was even leading the Big Ten for much of the season, and Williams was a big reason. She was named the Big Ten Forward of the Year and First Team All-American with 14 goals, six of them as game-winners. She was just the fourth All-American in program history.
6. Purdue Women’s Track & Field Wins Big Ten – 11 votes – Take that, University of Chicago! After 71 years Purdue finally caught the Maroons with its 73rd Big Ten Championship thanks to women’s track. No. 72 was earlier in Men’s basketball, but women’s track under Lonnie Greene dominated behind three individual titles from Devynne Charlton and one from Symone Black.
5. Purdue Baseball Makes Big Turnaround Under Mark Wasikowski – 13 votes – Mark Wasikowski had quite the first season as Purdue baseball’s new head coach. He orchestrated one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation. Purdue won only 10 games in 2016, but came back in year one under a new coach to go 29-27. The 19-win improvement was the best in the country and it set the stage for a big 2018.
4. Steele Johnson Wins Two NCAA Championships – 25 votes – David Boudia and Steele Johnson are two of the best divers in the world. They are also Boilermakers. After taking a year off from NCAA competition to train for something called the Olympics Steele Johnson returned to the Boilermaker Aquatic Center and won two more NCAA championships in the 1-meter and 3-meter competition. He didn’t even win at his best event, the 10-meter. He already has 4 NCAA Championships in his career and can tie or best David Boudia’s national record 6 NCAA Championships this spring.
3. Caleb Swanigan – 129 votes – I put this in as a catch-all because Caleb took home every Big Ten basketball honor known to man. He was the conference Player of the year, a First Team All-American, a finalist for National Player of the Year, a human double-double, and a first round NBA draft pick. He did not end the year how he would like in getting sent to the G-League, but the young man is already a millionaire and has a lot of basketball ahead of him.
2. Men’s Basketball Wins Record 23rd Big Ten Championship – 301 votes – For the first time in 21 years Purdue was the outright Big Ten champion in Men’s basketball. Confetti fell from the rafters. A trophy was presented on Keady Court. The hate Indiana Hoosiers had to stand and watch us win the title and go back in front with the most league championships. As much as we enjoy football, basketball is always king around here. When you have a championship season it is remembered. For good measure, we’re already two games to the positive for the 24th title.
1. Jeff Brohm Revives Purdue Football – 612 votes – Morgan Burke did his best to destroy Purdue football. Darrell Hazell rampaged like a wildfire to make us a laughingstock on the level with Kansas. We were a joke. In just 12 months, Brohm changed that. Yes, a 7-6 record is not the end-all, be-all of college football. It is a far sight better than anything Hazell ever did and the high water mark under Danny Hope. Purdue not only won 7 games this year, it was competitive in the six losses. This was the most fun we have had as fans in more than a decade. There is true hope for the program too. After everything we have been through thanks to the Burke-Hazell error, it was refreshing to just not totally suck.