In 2018, “Gettin’ Loose with Luce,” an ’80s-themed workout video starring the titular walk-on guard, swept Boiler nation.
Tommy Luce, now a senior, was already a favorite among Purdue basketball fans before the video, but his popularity was raised to the next level when fans got to watch him teach stretches while sporting a headband and spandex. Luce continues to make new episodes of the show, each time featuring a guest star to get “Luce” with Tommy.
“For me, it shows that I like to have a little fun,” Luce said. “I’m not just gonna be just out there hooping. I can also do some other stuff too.”
Luce came to Purdue in 2016 as a walk-on for the Boilermakers, after initially planning to play Division III. But Luce’s father knew head coach Matt Painter. When Painter was looking for a walk-on spot, he offered Luce a chance to work out with the team and ultimately offered him a spot.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to do that,” Luce said, “because I knew if I came to Purdue, I probably wasn’t gonna get in the rotation ever, but I’ve always been a huge fan so it was kinda hard to turn down.”
Once he joined the team, Luce became a deep reserve for the Boilermakers, and was usually put on the court when Purdue’s lead was insurmountable. Each time Luce is on the floor, he is met with some of the loudest cheers Mackey will see all season.
“It’s pretty special,” Luce said. “They always have done it, ever since I was a freshman, and the fact that they’re still doing it to this day is pretty cool. It is (nerve-wracking) a little bit, but I’ve gotten used to it ‘cause I’ve gotten in a lot of games now.”
Luce has averaged less than 1 point per game in his career as a Boilermaker, but his presence on the court alone has fueled the fans’ infatuation with him.
“I think he’s somebody that a lot of students can relate to,” Painter said. “You look out there and you see people that are 6-foot-9 (and) 230, and a normal student at Purdue isn’t 6-foot-9 (and) 230.”
Luce, as seen in his workout videos, paints himself not as a star athlete but simply a regular person.
“I think it’s because I don’t look like a basketball player,” Luce said. “I’m 155 pounds and 5-foot-9, not a very big dude. I’m just like your average guy. I feel like maybe that gives some of the guys in the crowd and other people somebody to look at that they can familiarize themselves with.”
While Luce has been known by fans as things like “the human victory cigar,” or “the Brian Scalibrine of Purdue,” he has his own nicknames within the team as well.
“I got a lot of nicknames,” Luce said. “‘T. Luce.’ Nojel (Eastern) likes to call me ‘T. Duke.’ I don’t know how he got it, he just started calling me it. A lot of people just kinda say ‘T’ and then throw whatever they want on the end of it.”
Whatever his teammates call him, Luce works hard to be known not as a star or campus celebrity but as a good teammate.
“I feel like I’ve just been the best teammate I can be,” Luce said. “Now that I’m older, I feel like I’m someone that knows what’s going on, more than what I did when I was a freshman.
“I still feel kinda nervous when I get in. My hands get a little sweaty, but once I’m out there, I’m comfortable. I’ve been out there enough times that I just play as hard as I can and try to get into the offense and do whatever I can to try to help the team win.”
Luce has played a total of 11 minutes so far this season, recording 2 points and four assists.