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The nickname "Boilermakers" goes back to 1891 when the Purdue football team defeated nearby rival Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana 44–0. An account of the game in the Crawfordsville Daily Argus News of October 26, 1891 was headlined, "Slaughter of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue." Engineering education in the 1890s at Purdue meant hands-on work in the forge room, where students heated and molded metal, just like the "blacksmiths" and "boilermakers" the football team was called after defeating opponents. The local Purdue press picked up on the name, with a notice in the November 1, 1891 Lafayette Sunday Times, "As everyone knows, Purdue went down to Wabash last Saturday and defeated their eleven. The Crawfordsville papers have not yet gotten over it. The only recourse they have is to claim that we beat their 'scientific' men by brute force. Our players are characterized as 'coal heavers,' 'boiler makers' and 'stevedores.'
Several of the local schools added to the boilermaker tradition by suggesting that Purdue was going up the Wabash River and hiring workers from the nearby Monon railroad yards to play football. Of course it wasn't true. However, Purdue's official mascot is a Locomotive, the Boilermaker Special. The Monon Railroad had its main locomotive shops in West Lafayette, not far from the campus.
In the early 1890s Purdue fielded dominating football teams. In 1891 Purdue went 4-0, outscoring opponents 192-0. In 1892 Purdue went 8-0, outscoring opponents 320-24. In 1893 Purdue went 5-2-1, outscoring opponents 334-144. In 1894 Purdue went 9-1, outscoring opponents 288-36. Over these four years, Purdue's combined record was 26-3-1, outscoring opponents 1134-204. Purdue beat in-state rival Indiana University 60-0, 68-0, 64-0, and 6-0 by an understandable forfeit. Purdue went 2-1 against Illinois, 2-1 Wisconsin, 3-0 against Chicago and split 2 games with Michigan.
The Purdue Boilermakers competed as 'Independent' until 1889. In 1890, they joined the 'Indiana Intercollegiate Athletic Association' and, finally, the Big Ten Conference in 1896. The Purdue Boilermakers have been Big Ten Conference Champions in 1918, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1943, 1952, 1967 and 2000. However, they made their first appearance in the Rose Bowl - the "grand-daddy of them all" - with a 1966 second-place finish in the Big Ten; conference rules at that time prevented Michigan State from appearing in consecutive Rose Bowls. The Boilermakers, under NFL hall-of-famer Bob Griese defeated the University of Southern California Trojans 14-13 to win the 1967 Rose Bowl. When the Boilermakers shared the Big Ten title the following season, the consecutive-appearance rule kept them out of the 1968 Rose Bowl. Purdue did not return to the Rose Bowl until 2001, losing to the University of Washington Huskies 24-34.
The Boilermakers have appeared in a total of 17 post-season bowl games, compiling a record of 9-8. Their most recent appearance was a 14-58 defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State University in the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Purdue has traditionally been called the 'Cradle of Quarterbacks',having produced NFL stars Cecil Isbell, Dale Samuels, Bob DeMoss, NFL Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP Len Dawson, NFL Hall of Famer Bob Griese, Mike Phipps, Gary Danielson, Mark Herrmann, Scott Campbell, Jim Everett, Eric Hunter, Billy Dicken, Kyle Orton and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees. Purdue QBs have thrown more touchdowns in the NFL than any other university, 1,311 at the end of the 2010 season. In 2011, there were three starting quarterbacks in the NFL from Purdue: Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, Kyle Orton of the Dallas Cowboys, and Curtis Painter of the New York Giants. The team is currently coached by Darrell Hazell.