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Dispatches from a Third-Generation Boilermaker Sports Fan

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Purdue sports have been important to my family for a long time. Since a young age I have had a signed Drew Brees jersey hanging in my bedroom, and this you could say was the start of my love for Purdue sports. Not only did my dad attend Purdue, but my grandpa did as well. In fact, we both lived in the same dormitory, Owen Hall, during our freshmen years. With both my dad and grandpa being alum, I had early exposure to some Purdue experiences, but my favorite was attending sporting events. Because of these experiences, when it was my turn to pick a college, I wanted to find a place where I really enjoyed the sports culture and emphasized finding an environment that I saw myself living in for the next four years. Luckily, Purdue had just what I needed.

Mitchell as a young child in his Drew Brees signed jersey

Something I like about Purdue is how the entire week seems to be planned around certain sporting events. I have had professors plan assignments and quizzes around games, and for me personally, I will plan out my schedule to study more at the beginning of the week, so when the weekend comes, I can cheer on the Boilers. But my favorite part about these events is how they bring the student body together. Every time I have gone to Mackey and Ross-Ade, it is super loud, usually sold out, and you always end up seeing someone you know. It’s a great way to connect with other Purdue students.

Mitchell with his mom in front of owen hall

There hasn’t been a time when I haven’t seen Mackey Arena filled with students. Since Mackey is consistently selling out seats for basketball games, you better be prepared to wait in long lines to try and grab a ticket. This year, I lined up at noon to get a boarding pass for paint crew, and the doors opened around five at night and I luckily got one for the next school year. For those of you who don’t know, a boarding pass for paint crew includes early entrance to Mackey for basketball games, guaranteed tickets to the basketball games with a special t-shirt, and invites. To say I was excited about getting a pass is an understatement. I can’t wait to feel the electric energy within the arena as we all cheer on our all-star Purdue basketball team. Although Mackey often fills up, there’s always a way for students to get in there and cheer on their team.

I have made countless memories at Purdue athletic events, but one of my favorites has been attending a game against one of our in-state rivals: Notre Dame. This year I attended the Purdue vs. Notre Dame football game at Notre Dame Stadium. Because it was an away game, we weren’t expecting to see as many Purdue fans as we did. Seeing the student body travel up to support the Boilermakers was such a testament to Purdue sports culture. My friends and I crammed into a South Bend Airbnb and made a whole weekend out of the event, but one thing I will never forget about that game is Purdue’s persistence to bring the Big Bass Drum to Notre Dame’s stadium. The bass drum was too tall to fit into their stadium, so instead of not bringing it, the All-American Marching Band displayed it outside of the stadium for fans to take pictures with and celebrate. Bringing a part of our traditions to South Bend was yet another way to rally the Purdue community together, even when we were not in West Lafayette.

Mitchell (upper left) posing with friends

But Purdue is more than just cheering on the athletics. We have some other traditions that were created right here on campus. One of them is sledding down the enormous and iconic Slayter Hill. This is usually where we hold outdoor concerts during the warmer seasons, but during the winter, specifically during a huge winter storm, it turns into the biggest attraction on campus. Before our huge snowstorm last month, my grandma called me telling me that I had to go sledding that day, because some of her best Purdue memories were from sledding down the hill. Excited to share this tradition with her, my friends and I grabbed anything we could find to sled on, laundry baskets, cookie trays, and even a TV monitor. But besides sledding, Purdue gives you the opportunity to make loads of memories with your new friends. Whether it’s taking a ride on the Boilermaker Special or watching the Big Bass Drum being rolled into Ross-Ade Stadium, these are all memories that bring the Purdue community together.

No matter which game or event I am participating in at Purdue, it always feels as if I am being a part of history. As my grandpa and dad both did, participating in activities at Purdue will certainly create memories that will last a lifetime. Looking at my time at Purdue, I think Drew Brees would be proud that it all started with his jersey.

Mitchell Walbolt
Mitchell Walbolt is a sophomore from Cicero, IN, majoring in Supply Chain, Information and Analytics with a concentration in Finance. Outside of the classroom he is an Ambassador for the Krannert School of Management, serves as the Directing Co-Chair for Purdue Old Masters, and is a member of Theta Chi Fraternity. This summer he will be a supply chain intern for Caterpillar.