Purdue Pete

University Purdue University
Conference Big Ten
First seen 1940
Related mascot(s) Boilermaker Special

Purdue Pete is a mascot of Purdue University. Despite his visible and constant on-field presence at Purdue sporting events, Pete is not the official mascot of the university. The official mascot of Purdue is the Boilermaker Special.


Purdue Pete was first designed as a logo by the University Bookstore in 1940.[1] They would put it on their products and portray him dressed up in different clothes for the different majors. He got the Purdue part of his name from Purdue University.[2] The owners of the bookstores gave him the name “Pete”, yet no one officially knows why this was chosen to be his name.[2] He was given a physical identity in 1956 as he came out and helped the students cheer at a pep rally.[1] Over the years, the appearance of Purdue Pete has gone under several drastic changes as well as several minor changes. His original head was made of paper-mâché, pasted onto a chicken wire frame.[2] This was very inconvenient for the person who would be underneath because it would limit his movements, yet he was still expected to move around and do stunts.[2] This head was changed to a giant fiberglass head where the person inside would use a harness to support it. This was unpractical due to the sheer size of it. In the 1980s, Purdue Pete acquired the appearance he is now associated with.[2] Proposals to switch to a soft-sculpture costume were rejected in 2006 and 2011.[3][4]

Design of Purdue PeteEdit

Purdue Pete’s uniforms are old gold and black, which are Purdue’s school colors.[2] The hammer that Purdue Pete carries is an icon that signifies him as a boilermaker.[2] Back in the days of the boilermakers, they would use large mallets to mold the steel into boilers or pipes or even bridges. The hammer is also a symbol of strength, power, and the determination it took to be a boilermaker.[2] Purdue Pete’s hardhat only helps solidify this image in the minds of anyone who sees him.[2] Purdue Pete being identified as a boilermaker helps connect him with his fellow Purdue Boilermakers in the stands. Purdue Pete’s giant head could be something used to draw attention to him, which helps him get the fans pumped up. Purdue Pete could be seen as a symbol. He is recognized as being a Boilermaker. Yet, underneath his big, iconic head, he is just a student. This is symbolic of the fact that we are also Boilermaker on the inside. Since we can’t see who is underneath, it allows the audience to put themselves in his place. The current head utilizes a fiberglass frame, but is much smaller and lighter than previous designs because it is made primarily of a composite.[5] The newest head of Pete was designed and created by students in the Aeronautical Engineering Technology department.[5] This is also the same department that designed the Boilermaker X-tra Special.[1] They make several heads over the course of the year.[5] They also fix the heads when they get damaged, whether from use or bumping into things.[5] When the department gives the heads to the four Purdue Pete students, the heads are covered in the flesh-colored paint.[5] It is up to the four people who portray Purdue Pete to paint the eyes and glue on the hair.[5]

Redesign of Purdue PeteEdit

Purdue Pete in 1955 (left), 1969 (right)

Purdue attempted to redesign Purdue Pete's costume due to concerns that the oversize head was perceived as scary by younger fans, as well as the transfer of the original designer and customizer of the Purdue Pete heads, Professor Raymond Thompson, to Dubai Aerospace university. However, since a leak of the redesigned Purdue Pete, the redesign has been met with outrage and criticism. 2008 graduate and former Purdue Pete actor John Langenkamp criticized the full body suit for being potentially very uncomfortable, and being too drastic a visual change from the previous design. Longtime John Purdue Club donor and member Bill Donovan kept most of his donations earmarked for Purdue Pete, but chose not to contribute more after the redesign of Purdue Pete. The redesign plans for Purdue Pete involve no jersey, a full body suit rather than just a head, and no hammer. At the spring 2011 Black & Gold game, despite a 67 yard field goal by a junior Carson Wiggs, the loudest fan reaction was to boo the redesigned mascot. On April 13, 2011, Purdue decided to restore the old Purdue Pete mascot design.[6]

Function of Purdue PeteEdit

Purdue Pete goes to all of the football games, and the home basketball games, as well as the tournaments such as the Big Ten Bowl Games and the NCAA.[2] Purdue Pete also makes appearances at softball, soccer, and baseball home games, but he doesn’t stay for the whole games.[2] At the events, Purdue Pete gets the fans riled up and helps them cheer our teams to victory. He also does several skits during the games.[2] At the basketball games, Pete does his surfing skit where he gets people to lay down on the ground and he rides a surfboard over top of them.[2] The Purdue Petes also do several of their own made up stunts.[2] This allows the different Petes, who all have unique personalities, to put their own touches into the performance.[2] It typically takes about ten minutes to get completely dressed up before the games.[2] Purdue Pete wears a basketball jersey to the basketball games and is fully decked out with football jersey and pads for the football games.[2] He also wears his football outfit as his main clothing of choice.[2] Besides games, Purdue Pete also goes to numerous social events.[2] He has been to grand-openings for companies around the West Lafayette area.[2] He goes to tailgates before games and special alumni events.[2] If you are a special donor to the school or are visiting in the Presidential game box, you can probably expect to see Pete make a visit to the box.[2] Although the football outfit is his main clothing style, he can wear other things for special appearances, as long as you can find clothes that fit him.[2] For a banquet to welcome the new president of Purdue, France A. Córdova, they got Purdue Pete a tuxedo to wear.[2] Aside from these general events, you can also request to have Purdue Pete, and/or the spirit squad, come to another event, even a birthday.[1] All you need to do is fill out a form online.


According to Arthur Smith, a spirit coordinator, "essentially anyone could be Purdue Pete",[2] although the people who have been chosen to be Purdue Pete in the past have all been about six feet tall and weighed around one hundred and sixty pounds.[2] Hundreds of people try out to be Purdue Pete, but only the four most qualified students are chosen in order to distribute the time and effort required.[2] In order to keep the role of Purdue Pete, students have to pass drug tests and physicals and must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA.[2] They are also required to go to study hall for about four hours a week.[2] A professor has never been Purdue Pete, although there have been some requests to be Pete for a day to experience what it’s like.[2]


Purdue Pete was recently featured in the StubHub commercial "Fantasy Football".


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Purdue Pete". CBS College Sports. 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 Smith, Arthur. Personal interview. 03 Oct 2008. Interview notes in possession.
  3. Mayer, Kathy (January/February 2011). "Purdue Pete to Reveal Makeover". Purdue Alumnus: 23. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  4. Slyder, Curt (April 13, 2011). "Fans rejoice after Purdue shelves brand-new Pete". Journal & Courier (Lafayette, Indiana). Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Hunteman, Emily (Winter 2006). "How Purdue Pete got light-headed". Purdue University. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
  6. Levin, Jenny. "New Pete receives harsh criticism". The Exponent. The Exponent.
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