November 19, 2012
Photo story: Saying goodbye
By Tom Campbell
Every year at this time, a group of seniors is getting ready to play their last game for Purdue. It's on the schedule. We know it's coming. They know it's coming. But it doesn't make it any easier for the players or the fans. And sometimes, even for the coaches.
That's why there are two photos with today's story.
That's Brandon Villarreal having trouble keeping his emotions in check following a 37-3 win over Illinois to wrap up the 2005 home season. He just didn't want to leave the field. That's strength coach Jim Lathrop providing comfort and a friendly nudge toward the locker room so the band could play its post game concert.
When football careers are over, that's it. Basketball players can still play in rec leagues when their careers are over and baseball players can still feel a little of the competitive thrill by playing beer league softball.
But once a football player takes off the uniform after the last game, he's done. Sometimes the finality of it all can be kind of tough to deal with.
Same goes for a coach after his final game. Coaches almost never leave on their own terms. Joe Tiller's final season ended at 4-8. Even a 62-10 drubbing of IU in his last game couldn't salve the sting of a poor final season.
Joe tried hard to keep his emotions in check while thanking his family, the fans and the players who shared his 12-year Boilermaker coaching journey. He failed, as I'm sure, did many of the fans and players. I know I got a little weepy.
Look closely at the collection of media spread out before Tiller on the field. There are players and assistant coaches sprinkled throughout the crowd, listening to his farewell speech.
Yeah, saying goodbye is tough, whether you're saying it to one player, or 50,000 fans.
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