Sports have a unique way of helping people find their calling and give them meaning.
For Luke “Fluffopotamus” Ratliff, his calling was Crimson Tide basketball. I recently heard about Luke’s story through a friend and it struck a chord with me.
As someone who started and grew a college student section and poured my blood, sweat and tears into it… ...and someone who understands what it is like to have an uncommon sense of passion and hype surrounding a basketball program… ...and who started BFC to help schools find leaders like Luke and then work alongside them to empower and support them as they build the section... I felt like Fluffopotamus and I would have been great friends, who ‘get each other’ and would want to continue taking that same passion for sports and people to every stage of life. I’m sad the world will never get to see what Luke would have done, but it doesn’t diminish the impact his life has already created. The goal of this blog is to honor Luke and give a platform for more people to learn about and remember the legend, Fluffopotamus.
Fluffopotamus is the type of student every college campus wants, every basketball program loves, every opposing team fears and every student section needs. While I didn’t know him personally, after reading many articles, tweets and watching interviews, it didn’t take long to understand who Luke was... A kind, humble, passionate kid who loved Alabama Basketball. He truly was Alabama’s Biggest Fan.
He jumped right into the student section freshman year and made sure he attended every home basketball game he could regardless of time, weather or opponent. He “forced” himself into leadership to continue shaping the culture and increase attendance. While I’m sure he attended football games, I know basketball is what he really liked. He liked how close he could be to players, to the point they could hear exactly what he was saying. He liked how he and some friends could make an impact on the game.
He liked the camaraderie he had with friends and players. It doesn’t take long to see the impact he made on the community, from students to players, from coaches to athletic administrators. Fluffopotamus made a real change on campus. Fluffopotamus is what I would call a Top 1% Leader. He just went to games because he wanted to be there. He LOVED basketball and the game environment. He had a natural love of life and an energy that was contagious. He was willing to put himself out there, even if no one else was, which is extremely hard to do. He had a vision for the Crimson Chaos on how to grow and sustain it. I have no doubt Fluffopotamus will always be remembered on Alabama’s campus, but I hope his story inspires students, staff and communities at other schools.
The student section gave Luke meaning. The student section made Luke feel like he belonged. The student section allowed Luke a chance to escape the stress of school. The student section offered Luke friendship and community.
The student section empowered Luke to make genuine relationships with athletes and coaches. The Alabama student section will forever be better because of Luke. You see, student sections are more than just free pizza and t-shirts.
Student sections are just more than a promotion.
Student sections are more than just showing up and cheering at a game. Student sections are more than just sports. A student section offers hope.
It offers a sense of belonging, even if kids have nowhere else to go.
It offers camaraderie and community, even for kids who struggle to make friends. A student section provides purpose.
A student section is a way of life. For Fluffopotamus, his life was taken too soon, but I am personally grateful he found the Alabama student section.
I know it enhanced every aspect of his life and gave him purpose and allowed him to express his pride and passion for Alabama. Luke “Fluffopotamus” Ratliff—from one Biggest Fan to another, thank you for being you. You have touched the hearts of the Alabama community, of student section leaders like you, and athletes and fans of many schools. May you be remembered forever. A Gofundme has been set up to help raise funds for his family, if you’d like to contribute. The University of Alabama has also set up a Memorial Fund to support the future leaders of the Crimson tide, if you’d like to contribute.
With sincere passion,
Fluffopotamus's Biggest Fan Images are from Luke's Instagram page, other online sources and University of Alabama Athletics website.