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Robbie Hummel: Respect and Perseverance

Robbie Hummel has been and will be as celebrated as any player in Purdue history.   Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Robbie Hummel has been and will be as celebrated as any player in Purdue history. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

After Purdue's heart-breaking loss to Kansas in the round of 32, broadcaster Steve Kerr made a suggestion.

"When Matt Painter gets back to Purdue, the first thing he should do is retire Robbie Hummel's jersey," Kerr said.

The idea caught fire, as #retire4 exploded on Twitter. But it's not the fact that Boilermakers want to retire Hummel's number that's significant. Numbers are retired every year all over the country. It was the urgency of it. Kerr suggested it be the first thing Purdue did when their plane touched down in West Lafayette and many agreed.

The reason for the rush was that Hummel was different, even special.

It's difficult to find a basketball fan who doesn't respect and even admire the Valparaiso, Ind. native. Even most Indiana fans appreciate him.

Everybody remembers Hummel's two knee surgeries. Most of Boiler nation can recall exactly where they were the moment they heard about each ligament tear.

The angle of what might have been had he and E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson been able to finish out their junior and/or senior season together has been covered backwards and forwards. Few have discussed what that group really meant to Purdue fans, though.

That trio helped bring Purdue basketball back after a stretch of six straight sub-20 win seasons. This is part of the reason Hummel has been so endeared to Purdue fans. He and the rest of the "Baby Boilers" are seen as part of the rebirth of the program when Gene Keady passed the torch to Matt Painter.

Moore and Johnson are tops in wins as a player in Purdue history with 107. Hummel isn't far down that list.

Hummel also finished his career in the top 10 in Purdue history in points, rebounds, free throw percentage and blocks. He was a three-time All Big Ten player, preseason conference player of the year, second team All American, two-time academic All Big Ten and Wooden award finalist. But he was more than his statistics and awards. He did the little things.

The broken vertebrae in his back didn't prevent him from winning a Big Ten tournament MVP award. Therein lies another portion of the reason for Hummel's nearly universal appeal.

He always picked himself up and came back to play at a high level.

He played good defense. He hustled. He played smart basketball and rarely made mental mistakes. He was a leader. And he was always humble and appreciative.

Perhaps no player in Purdue history has meant more to its fan base than Robbie Hummel.