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February 29, 2012Ryne Smith lost it after he was taken out of the game for the final time in Mackey Arena.
Robbie Hummel fought back tears when hearing fellow seniors Smith and Lewis Jackson praised his character, even using the word love, in the post-game ceremony.
Jackson got choked up when thanking his family for its support, his voice especially cracking before telling his mom, Zinda, that she was his "everything."
Smith, Hummel and Jackson vowed leading into Purdue's Senior Night that they didn't want to get emotional.
Those were probably unrealistic expectations.
Nearly the entire crowd of about 14,000 people stayed inside Mackey Arena after the Boilermakers' 80-56 victory over Penn State to say goodbye to a trio of seniors who have been key components to the program.
In their leadership.
In their resolve.
In their toughness.
In their passion.
And the crowd roared its approval in the final minutes when Coach Matt Painter took his seniors off the floor, one by one. First, Jackson, who was showered with an especially long "LewJack" chant. Then Smith, who got a standing ovation. Then Hummel, who was serenaded with "Rob-bie Hum-mel."
Once they were all on the sidelines, they plopped down on the bench, side by side. Smith was struggling to keep the tears from falling, and Jackson put his arm around him and gave a squeeze.
Smith kept fighting it, putting his head in a towel at one point and using it to keep wiping the tears away, and Hummel offered a pat on his back.
The love kept pouring out once the players got the microphone.
Smith told Hummel what he'd gone through and overcome the past two years "is something I'll take with me forever." To Jackson, his former roommate, Smith said, "We've been through a lot, ups and downs" and that he loved him.
Jackson unleashed an "I love you with all my heart" to his teammates.
That L word got used quite a bit on this night - and it's one that doesn't exactly get used often between these 20-somethings.
"You've got to realize - I mean, we love each other - but we don't say nice things to each other every day," Jackson said afterward. "We don't just come in, 'Rob, I love you. Everything you've been through.' Ryne "
And then Smith piped in with "I guess what he's trying to say is it doesn't get very sentimental in the locker room."
But it was a special night.
"Seriously, you think about the wars in practice, just all the days, everything you've been through, and it's a special bond because you go to college, we went from boys to men together, and that relationship can never be taken by anybody," Jackson said.
and they won't have the same bond we had by going thorugh this together.
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