Now that babaoreally has forced us to consider the Purdue Boilermakers running game this morning—I know, running! at Purdue! will wonders never cease—it’s time to ask the only question that really matters this week.
Since I have been reminded, rather rudely, of the existence of something called Zander Horvath—a real running back!—I had to remind myself of what that was.
Because it is apparently a law that a Purdue running back must basically just be a human bowling ball who will (1) kill you and (2) be criminally underused, we turn to the somewhat odd number choice of 40. And that, my friends, is the question:
Why is Mike Alstott’s number not retired yet?
You read this damn description of him:
“Impossible to bring down on first contact,” [radio voice Tim] Newton said. “Given the focus opposing defenses had on him, his ability to break multiple tackles was amazing.”
Alstott ran for 3,635 yards at Purdue. He ran for 1,188 yards, third-most in school history, and 14 touchdowns as a junior. He ground out a school record 1,436 yards and 11 more scores as a senior.
“Alstott just ran over people,” [writer Paul] Siegfried said. “He had the big, thick neck, the monster pads. He was huge and was the epitome of running downhill. He must have been born on the side of a mountain. The stories of his offseason workouts are legendary at Purdue — pushing a Jeep around an open field. He WAS the Purdue offense and played on some really bad teams.”
Alstott ran for 264 yards on Nov. 24, 1995, second-best in Purdue history.
For a bruiser, he had surprising speed. He averaged a stunning 5.6 yards per carry.
LOOK AT THIS MAN IN COLLEGE:
And for all that, Alstott endured his final three seasons with something called Rick Trefzger throwing interceptions and having an irritating combination of consecutive consonants as Purdue went 9-21-3 despite the real A-Train bringing the pain.
I don’t care that Purdue doesn’t retire numbers, according to some guy at Hamilton County’s ONLY! Daily Newspaper, or that Alstott is already in the Boilermaker Hall of Fame. That #40 is sacrosanct. Either put it in the rafters, or make it a requirement that it must be worn ONLY by (1) a running back who (2) is at least 230 pounds and (3) has likely killed a would-be Minnesota tackler.
Jim Colletto oughta be brought up on war crimes. I’m so angry about this.
Tell me, writers:
1. Why the hell is Alstott’s number not retired by Purdue yet? I WANT ANSWERS.
2. How terrifying is this man? Tell me about a similarly terrifying player for your team.
3. Whose number ought to be retired at your school but is not?
4. [OPTIONAL] Do you have thoughts about Purdue’s offense? I don’t, but you might.
MNW: The only number I can think of is the Pat Fitzgerald #51, which now goes instead to scrappy gym rat linebackers, so everything here is pretty appropri—
—I’m sorry I’m just really concerned Mike Alstott may kill me.
WSR: 1: Because Purdue football is dumb.
2: The Mike Alstott-Chris Darkins duels of 1994 and 1995 are some of my favorite football games of all time. Those two terrorized the (admittedly not good) defenses like a pair of agitated hippos turned loose in a daycare. It was magnificent and horrific and you just couldn’t turn away. The closest Minnesota’s had was Thomas Tapeh, who fit the role perfectly as a fellow fullback and had the added bonus of having Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney keeping defenses honest so when he did accidentally get the ball they weren’t expecting it.
3: Man, this one is problematic. He’s one of my favorite Gopher football players of all time, but his actions over the past few years have been...ummmmm...questionable. So let’s just say that Tyrone Carter was an amazing football player, trot him out on the field to wave (NO MIC! You don’t get to talk, Tyrone), and then just show highlights of him 20 years ago and ignore the things he does now.
4: So Purdue’s had 2 great WRs, an outstanding TE, and an array of “Yeah, he’s a pretty good fatback” RBs over Brohm’s tenure. Are they going to add a QB at any point? I mean, I’ve already commented on the OL (or complete lack thereof), but how does Brohm not have a real QB yet?
HWAHSQB: I’m not a big fan of retiring numbers. I actually prefer keeping special numbers for players. For instance, Illinois saves 97 for the best pass rusher in honor of Simeon Rice and for basketball, Nick Anderson wore 25 as a tribute to his high school teammate and Illinois commit, Ben Wilson, who was shot and killed when he was in high school. Since then, Illini players from that high school (Chicago Simeon) all wear 25. Deon Thomas, Bryant Notree, Calvin Brock, and Kendrick Nunn have all worn 25.
I was playing basketball when I was in school against a group of football players. Ty Douthard had the ball on a breakaway and went up for a dunk. I pulled up short and Simeon Rice slammed into me from behind. I fell forward and cut Douthard’s legs out from under him as I fell and he slammed to the floor on his neck. I was 2 inches taller and a little heavier than Douthard also, but he came up ready to fight. I was 20 and afraid of nothing and no one at that point in my life, but I was terrified of Ty Douthard at that moment. Rice caught Douthard about a 1⁄2 second before he ripped my head off.
My thoughts on Purdue’s offense is to either play them outdoors in November or pray for a monsoon.
babaoreally: They don’t retire numbers. I saw Alstott in one game at a packed Ross-Ade against Notre Dame. I remember it being fairly competitive only due to Alstott. I also remember a 3rd and 4 or something similar where they took Alstott out of the game.
I was no football expert then (as I’m not now), but even I knew that was stupid and Alstott was our only hope of winning that game.
RU in VA: 1 - Mike Alstott is great. He’s a good guy, too—starting two foundations and coaching some high school kids.
2 - It’s before the B1G addition of RU and MD, but Brian Leonard is almost as terrifying as Mike. If you like grainy Big East football highlight clips and Illinois getting manhandled, I have a treat for you:
3 - So, Rutgers only has one number (I believe) that’s retired, and that’s Eric Legrand’s 52. I’m not a big Marco Battaglia hype guy. Paul Robeson’s number has to be retired at some point. I don’t know how they’ll do it since he didn’t “have” a number, but he’s the most important alumni, ever.
4 - Naah, Purdue probably goes like 6-10 and finishes last in the AFC East.
Kind of...: 1. No idea. But if they haven’t done it for Griese, Dawson, Keyes, Brees, etc., Alstott will be waiting a while.
2. No exact replica of what Alstott was (which would be impossible), but obviously Ron Dayne filled the “oversized RB” bill, and UW is clearly “Fullback U.” at this point, sending Alec Ingold, Derek Watt, and Mason Stokke to the NFL. None compare to Alstott, but, again, we’ve already established the he is a species of one.
3. Gotta think J.J. Watt’s number will get retired in due time. Jonathan Taylor, too. Mike Webster’s post-playing days were tragic and troubled, but the guy was great at UW and one of the best Centers in NFL history. He should be so honored.
However, going only by college production, the most deserving is Jamar Fletcher. NFL career didn’t pan out at an elite level, but he’s the (modern) B1G leader in interceptions, interception return yardage, and TD’s off of interceptions despite only playing three years. Seven picks each year from ‘98-’00 (led B1G each year). Sealed Rose Bowl win with INT TD against UCLA. Picked off Drew Brees 3x in ‘98/’99 (twice for TDs). [All three of these TDs came in the 4th quarter with UW protecting a lead of 7 or fewer points.] In Purdue’s Rose Bowl year, Brees only threw his way three times for no completions (smart move). Joey Harrington was a #2 overall pick, but Fletcher got him 3 times in a 2000 non-conference showdown. He had at least 3 picks in the end zone, including one against Tom Brady in 1998. In 1999, he picked off Minnesota in OT, or else that Rose Bowl season dies in October. He is honestly the best “seize the moment” player in UW history and frankly was more critical to the back-to-back Rose Bowl championships than Dayne was.
Food: Let’s eat until we’re as big as Alstott
Of course, no Purdue Week is complete without reference to the food actually named for a Purdue running back—the Duane Purvis All-American Burger at Triple XXX:
THE DUANE PURVIS ALL AMERICAN*A 1/4lb. chop steak, thick, creamy peanut butter, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle & onion on a toasty sesame bun.
I’ll confess something, writers: peanut butter on a burger really doesn’t do it for me. As such, I’ve never had the Purvis burger. Here’s your chance:
1. Excoriate me for not liking peanut butter on burgers OR congratulate me on my impeccably good taste.
2. Provide your thoughts on the Purvis Burger AND/OR some classic burger you have to eat in your college town.
WSR: 1: You fucking rube. How many times have we been to the Blue Door and you’ve never once had peanut butter added to something? Holy hell, man. The next time we go to Como, get a Como Blucy with PB and you can thank me later. Good grief.
2: I’d eat the Purvis Burger, provided I ever have the misfortune of being in West Lafayette again. And for those who have the good luck to end up in the Twin Cities, hit up an aforementioned Blue Door. They’re amazing. Get the tots with your Blucy.
HWAHSQB: I’m allergic to peanuts so screw Duane and his stupid ruining of what is probably a pretty good cheeseburger.
It’s not a burger, but whenever I go to Champaign for a game, I always get a fish sandwich from Delux. (It’s now called Legends for about two decades, but I refuse to call it that as I want to relive my glory days when I go to Champaign) It isn’t anything fancy, but it is just a perfectly breaded and fried fish sandwich and I highly recommend it. If I were getting a burger in Champaign, I would definitely go to Murphy’s Pub. They do a fine job of serving beer and burgers. There could very well be better places that have opened up in the last 25 years, but I don’t really care.
babaoreally: I’ve never had that in my few trips to XXX. I’d like to think that it would be good, but I would rather it just be peanut butter on the cheeseburger. Get rid of the pickles, tomatoes and anything else. Just pure protein, dairy, and fat.
I have had and would have again the Boilermaker Pete at XXX. A Triple-decker beauty! 1/3lb. chop steak, 2 slices of American cheese loaded with grilled onions on a toasty sesame bun.
RU in VA: I’m with the no peanut butter. The Midwest is determined to pack as many heavy oils and fats into every foodstuff. I’m surprised they even cook the bacon or melt down the butter at this point. Just make it injectable or in capsule form.
I’m of the camp that a heavy majority of burgers are overdone. They should bleed a little bit onto the bun. It should taste like something, in addition to the condiments. Miss me with this smash burger trend.
Unfortunately, after my rant about trans fats above, I will point out that the signature Rutgers food is 15 different fried items with a lubrication sauce in a bun - the “Fat Sandwich”. I own my hypocrisy.
Kind of...: I would have no problem putting PB on a burger, but that there’s only 1⁄4 lb. of beef on the Purvis burgers suggests that West Lafayette is a rather timid place. PB will be hard to find in Madison, as the famous Plaza Burger already has a secret sauce. I haven’t been to Dotty’s in a long time, but I’m old and remember it’s previous location on Capitol Square, especially 2-for-1 nights on Tuesdays. Pretty sure Mike Alstott would’ve loved it.