Remembering Third Down Thunder

Andrew Robinson

Third Down Thunder passed away peacefully Sept. 9 with WKU Athletics department family members close by.

His age is unknown.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork made the announcement via Twitter after Thunder was pronounced dead.

Immediately, members of the media that cover WKU poured out with a #ripthirddownthunder hashtag on Twitter. They often had a front row seat to hearing Thunder come pouring straight out of the horse’s mouth before it could reach the masses gathered to support the Toppers.

Thunder was best known for coming through Houchens-Smith Stadium speakers when WKU’s opponent was on third down and the crowd needed some motivation. He was accompanied by AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

Thunder wasn’t always successful in being a catalyst for a defensive stop. A year ago, WKU’s opponents converted on third down 52 percent of the time, while WKU only converted 31 percent of the time.

Thunder often got moans and groans from fans, saying it was amateurish and silly. Fans would often mock it or laugh when public address announcer Chad Young let “Third Down Thunder” loose.

Young has been campaigning through Twitter recently to encourage people to vote in an unscientific poll that they will miss Thunder. Unfortunately, just about 40 percent of people will miss Thunder.

(Chad, quit voting over and over.)

Many Football Bowl Subdivision stadiums have gimmicky public address announcements that require crowd participation. Most notably when the announcer says something like, ‘that’s good for another (insert team name) FIRST DOWN!’

But few were like Thunder. His quiet, shy, introverted brother, Second Down Silence, would barely get through his play before the music would begin. A few seconds later, Young would reach deep down and let out a “Thirrrrrrrrrd Doowwwwwwnnnnn Thhhhhhhunnnder.”

He’d barely finish and the chain gang would have already moved onto first down for the opponent.

In some instances, the Toppers would get penalties between Young’s unleashing of Thunder and the ball being snapped. In those cases, Young would clear his throat and do it all over again.

Thunder’s relationship with WKU Athletics is rumored to have become rocky after the departure of his father, David Elson. Elson will return Saturday to Houchens-Smith Stadium to remember his son and what he meant to the atmosphere at WKU football games.

You knew it was Saturday when you heard a little Thunder come rumbling through the speakers.

Fans are encouraged to remember Thunder Saturday by remaining silent the first time the opponent is on third down and are also encouraged to hold three fingers in the air for the duration of the play. This memorial will be similar to lap three of Sprint Cup Series races when NASCAR fans hold a moment of silence for the late Dale Earnhardt.

Thunder is preceded in death by volleyball’s “Pooooiint Western.”

Thunder is survived by Doug Gorman’s “Ladies and Gentleman, now is the time to get on your feeeet,” “access denied,” “steps called” and our personal favorite, “That’s another College Heights Herald three-pointer.” More closely to Thunder’s home, he is survived by an even more lame gimmick at the end of the third quarter where fans are encouraged to “jump around.”

In lieu of flowers, the Thunder family asks checks be sent to the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation for general use in the WKU Athletics department.

A private memorial service will be led by Young in the press box prior to Saturday’s game and a public service will be the aforementioned moment of silence during the first defensive third down of the game.