Purdue University basketball player Robbie Hummel may be one of a kind.
No, he’s not the best player ever to don the black and gold, though he’s obviously very good.
He may not even be the most beloved player ever by Purdue University faithful, though he’s likely in the top five.
But Hummel might be the most widely beloved Purdue player by casual fans or those who don’t otherwise give a hoot about the Boilermakers.
I tweeted last night at half-time of the Purdue-Kansas game, “If you're not a KU student or alum and you're not rooting for Robbie Hummel right now, there might be something wrong with you.”
The response was immediate and the outpouring genuine—even soulful. There didn’t seem to be a single soul outside Lawrence not cheering for Hummel. There were more than a few followers of the kids in candy-striped pants who chimed in, as well.
“I am a huge IU fan but I am rooting like hell for Hummel and Purdue!,” one of my Twitter followers wrote. “What a performance by Hummel!”
The support for Hummel continued to pour in through The Score’s Twitter account throughout the second half. This one hit right after the game ended.
“I’m a KU alum from Indiana (IU fan as well) and even I feel bad for Hummel. Purdue deserved to win tonight.”
Legendary coach John Wooden says the better team never loses. But most agreed last night that a better kid never lost.
It’s not clear to me why Hummel is so beloved.
Is it because he’s an Indiana kid through and through? Is it because so many can relate to his Valparaiso roots? Is it because of his awe-shucks looks and unflappable on-court demeanor?
Certainly his hard-luck, injury-riddled career has led to his beloved status. Surely Purdue would have made its long-awaited trip to the Final Four had Hummel not had two knee blowouts in less than two years.
Hummel has had it so rough, most people probably forgot he broke his back his sophomore year. He celebrated Purdue's Big Ten tournament title and collected the tournament's MVP honors that year wearing a heavy back brace.
His teammates last week said through his trials that Hummel has never let anything get him down. He shows up at every practice and game with a smile and a positive attitude.
After Purdue’s heart-breaking last-second loss to Kansas last night, Hummel’s fans might find it more difficult to find a reason to smile than the young man they admire so much.