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November 20, 2012

Game Starters: Reamer Club

Reamer Club

Purdue Reamer Club advisors Chad Johnson (left) and Brian Schafer stand by the replica of the Boilermaker Special in Dauch Alumni Center. Jerry Fankhauser, director of Purdue Agricultural Centers, also serves as a club advisor. (Purdue University/ Mark Simons)
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One of Chad Johnson's favorite aspects of working with the Reamer Club is getting to see the look of pride on alumni's faces when they step up to take a picture next to Purdue's official mascot, the Boilermaker Special, on game day.

Johnson, vice president of engagement and alumni outreach for the Purdue Alumni Association, is one of three faculty and staff advisors for the Reamers, who are the official caretakers of the Boilermaker Special and some other of Purdue's historic traditions.

The Reamer Club and its 50 members care for and pilot the Boilermaker Special as well as the Xtra Special, a modified golf cart "mini train." In addition to caring for the mascots, the Reamers work to bring school spirit and enthusiasm to all of Purdue's sports events.

"When you talk about bleeding gold and black, you're really talking about this group," Johnson says. "It's truly amazing how much they do on campus and on game days."

As large and as active as the club is, it requires the help of three advisors to oversee plans, approve decisions, and offer advice. The advisors are:

-- Chad Johnson, who has been a club advisor for two years. He says he chose to become involved with the Reamers because of the connection he had made with both present and former Reamers; Johnson met several club members during his work at Wiley Residence Hall, and he found that the bond members form in the club leads many of them to become very active alumni.

-- Jerry Fankhauser, director of Purdue Agricultural Centers. Fankhauser began working with the Reamers in 2001 by helping them to transport the Xtra Special to various promotional events. He became an honorary member of the Reamers in 2003. One of his main functions as advisor is to help transport the Xtra Special to away games, while also working to approve the club's activities and expenses.

-- Bryan Shaffer, production and marketing manager for Purdue University Press. Shaffer was a member of the Reamer Club from 1996 to 2000, and has been an advisor since April 2010. A former Boilermaker Special pilot, Shaffer provides additional advising to the pilots regarding their responsibilities in driving and caring for the mascot.

Although the Reamers are a highly self-organized group, the three advisors help keep the club running smoothly. Though each advisor is able to provide a different perspective to the club, Shaffer says he prefers to let the members work through challenges on their own.

"It's a balancing act," Shaffer says. "I want them to make their own decisions. However, if I feel they're going down a path that I know may be bumpy, because of my previous experience, I'll express my concern and advise them as needed."

The Reamers are present in many of the pre-game festivities and traditions throughout the game. On Fridays before home games, the Reamers offer free rides on the Boilermaker Special for students, staff, faculty and alumni. Reamers are also present for the Boiler Bridge Walk across the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge.

The morning of the game, the Boilermaker Special performs its "wake up duty" by driving around campus, blowing its horn, and boosting fan enthusiasm. The Boilermaker Special then leads the team buses to the stadium, while the Xtra Special escorts the marching band to Ross-Ade. The Xtra Special also leads the team onto the field to start the game. The mascots spend the game in the southeast corner of the field, blaring their horns after scores.

Fankhauser says the Reamers and the Boilermaker Special add a special factor to the spirit of game days.

"The Boilermaker Special is a truly unique mascot," Fankhauser says. "When you hear the horn, most football fans at both home and away games recognize it. It's such a neat experience and a key part of Purdue tradition."

The Reamers also coordinate the unfurling of the American and Indiana flags during the national anthem. Throughout the game, the Reamers cheer for the team, and even sing some of the more historic Purdue songs, including the cheers identifying individual colleges, which known primarily by older alumni.

"I don't think game day would be as exciting without the Boilermaker Special and the Reamer Club," Johnson says. "It's just one of those things that fires people up -- to see the train come into view and blow its horn. It just increases the whole spirit of the game."

Writer: Rachel Florman, rflorman@purdue.edu