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How I Became a Purdue Fan

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As part of the SB Nation refresh let me tell you why we’re all here.

Vanderbilt v Purdue Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed Hammer & Rails! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts [link here] to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

T-Mill

I would have to say that I have always been a Purdue fan. that is easy when my dad is an alum. He graduated from the School of Pharmacy in 1975 and eventually came to own his own business in Kokomo, where he grew up. Since we were only an hour away from campus it made trips back to football games easy.

I was 8 years old when my parents first got me a season ticket with them in 1987. My first game, at least that I can remember, was on September 19th, 1987 Against Louisville, the same team Purdue will open the 2017 season against. For Purdue as a program things were similar to now. The Boilers were coming off of a 3-7 season and after tying Louisville 22-22 they would go 3-7-1.

I have had tickets every year since except in 1994, when my parents sat out a season because of my sister’s wedding expenses. I got raised on the Akers and Colletto years when, as my dad would say, “we got to see a lot of good football, unfortunately none of it was Purdue.” Notre Dame, Washington, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, and even good years by Iowa, Northwestern, and Michigan State were in there. Purdue was always the foil getting their heads kicked in. Shoot, I am old enough to have seen RANKED Indiana teams come to Ross-Ade, including a 52-7 unmerciful beating unleashed by the Hoosiers in 1988.

For the first ten years of my Purdue fandom there was a pattern: Purdue would beat its MAC opponent, lose to Notre Dame, play competitive against a California or West Virginia, then maybe win one other conference game before hoping we won the Bucket at the end of the season. Northwestern was still awful for much of that time, so that always gave hope for a win. The same is true for Wisconsin and Illinois. Since that 1987 season marked the beginning of a run where Indiana won 6 Bucket games in 9 years (and two of Purdue’s wins were by 4 points) there wasn’t a lot of fun. Only watching Mike Alstott truck fools as he tried to singlehandedly drag Purdue to a bowl game (and nearly did in 1994) was truly enjoyable.

I followed Purdue basketball mostly from afar, but to this point the only time I had been to Mackey Arena was for the 1988 and 1989 basketball semi-states when Kokomo was involved. Purdue football was my primary fandom, and I grew up walking fall Saturdays from the Northwestern Street garage to Ross-Ade after breakfast at Cracker Barrell.

By the 1997 season I was a senior in high school still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with life and where I wanted to go. I had no interest in wanting to become a pharmacist and take over the business because I always wanted to do my own thing. Joe Tiller took over and after a 36-22 loss at Toledo it certainly looked like we were in for more of the same. My parents were out of town for the following week, so I went to the Notre Dame game with my brother-in-law and his brother while their wives shopped with their toddler children.

What happened was one of the most unexpected things I have ever seen. Purdue shocked Notre Dame 28-17 for their first win over the Irish in 12 years. It wasn’t even that Purdue won, but that they were even competitive, as they had lost 35-0 in South bend the year before. This started the Tiller run that led to the 2004 season and probably cemented my choice of schools.

You see, I was primarily weighing two school choices at the time. I had a half tuition scholarship at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois by virtue of being a National Merit Semifinalist. I had visited the school twice and was very close to going there for sports journalism. I wanted to stay closer to home, however, so I eventually chose Purdue, where I majored in athletic training for a whole three weeks before realizing that’s not what I wanted to do. I know Purdue isn’t the best school for Communications, but I stayed loyal and got my degree. Along the way I got to go to a Rose bowl, see a basketball national championship, a second women’s Final Four, and the men’s most recent Elite Eight appearance. I got to be in the inaugural Gene Pool in 2001-02 (Keady’s first losing season in West Lafayette) and the seeds were planted for this very blog.

So that is my story. What is yours?

Jumbo Heroes Says:

Asking why I’m a Purdue fan is like asking why water is wet. It just is. It’s its natural state of being. But I suppose I need to delve a little deeper. I suppose it all started when my grandparents wound up settling in Crawfordsville, IN during my father’s senior year of high school. After working for Montgomery Ward (just google it) and moving around a number of times throughout my dad’s life my grandparents wound up in Crawfordsville. I’ve honestly never asked my dad why he chose to Purdue but I guess proximity was probably a factor. For whatever reason though my dad did go to Purdue University and got himself a great degree. From that point on my dad met my mom, married her, and then as happens in these situations, they had kids. Namely, me.

I remember going to Purdue games, mostly basketball, back during the Glenn Robinson days when I was only 8 years old. I was destined to be a Purdue fan. Like a lot of you I was brought up as a Purdue fan. I basically had no choice. It’s truly the best decision I never got to make.

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