What is it about Zionsville that allows this small town to produce two great Purdue Petes? The answer may never be revealed, but one thing can be for certain: Zionsville has managed to produce two men perfect for the status and prestige that comes with being a West Lafayette icon – the Purdue Pete.
For those of you who do not know them, allow me to introduce the two men behind the head of Purdue’s famous mascot. Senior Andrew Walters and junior Paul Gabor both grew up in Zionsville. In fact, they grew up down the street from one another, riding the same bus and attending the same school. Paul, the son of Marta and George Gabor, is currently an Accounting major in the Krannert School of Management. Andrew, the son of Robert and Michelle Walters, is also graduating from the Krannert School of Management, but with a degree in Management. Although friends at an early age, Andrew and Paul drifted apart in high school, only to run into each other in February of 2011, when both decided, independently, to attend the callouts for the new Purdue mascots.
For Andrew, the path to mascot-hood was much more determined than Paul. Practice came from being a mascot at Verizon Music Center(now Klipsch), dressing as the Taco Bell mascot at summer concerts. Here, he managed to make many fans from the patrons of Dave Mathews Band concerts. In addition to creating fans at summer concerts, Andrew has been the substitute mascot for Blue, the Colts’ mascot. According to Andrew, the role of Purdue Pete was one that he had been preparing for quite some time. He went into the callouts determined to come out a mascot.
Opposite of that mindset was Paul, who decided to tryout after talking to a few of his fraternity brothers. Going into tryouts with a semi-rehearsed Kanye West skit, Paul managed to excel in the two-day interview process.
Although both men went into the callout process with different mind sets, both have reached the same conclusion: being Purdue Pete has been a great opportunity, one that they do not take for granted. Both men are clearly passionate about their roles as Purdue’s mascot, as well as the friends they have made through the journey. With a strong alumni base, the relationships among past and present Purdue Petes are strong and supportive.
As I soon realized, being a Purdue Pete is not an easy task. With twice weekly workouts, as well as a multitude of other events to attend, Andrew and Paul and the other two Purdue Petes are considered to be Purdue Athletes. They have the same standards to uphold as the other student athletes, standards that were clearly exemplified during my time spent with Andrew and Paul. I gained an even greater respect for these young men when I found out they perform not only at Purdue athletic events, but also at private receptions set up throughout the state.
As for what it’s like being inside the head of the highly-regarded Purdue mascot, Paul made the contrast clear. Paul explained that as Purdue Pete, you are instantly recognized by thousands of adoring fans. Yet as soon as the mascot attire is put away, it is important to put away the “Purdue Pete swagger” as well. Apparently, Paul and Andrew just don’t receive the same amount of cheering and adoration without the Purdue Pete attire.
Paul and Andrew are terrific young men, clearly taking the legacy of Purdue Pete seriously. For that, Zionsville should be proud of its current pair of Purdue Petes.