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Bradley Center tradition affects all aspects of engineering alumnus’ life

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Marquette alumnus Rick Smith jumps at every game when the arena plays the song

Marquette alumnus Rick Smith jumps at every game when the arena plays the song "Jump Around." (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Marquette alumnus Rick Smith jumps at every game when the arena plays the song "Jump Around." (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

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Few people were affected more by the BMO Harris Bradley Center than the fans in section 227, row B, seats six and seven.

When House of Pain’s “Jump Around” plays at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Rick Smith, an alumnus from the College of Engineering, quickly goes from season ticket holder to quasi-celebrity as he jumps around and claps rhythmically to the song. Every time it happens, he gets on the Jumbotron.

“This is something that you couldn’t plan twice if you wanted to,” Rick Smith said. “Goofy things like this happen.”

While the arena that made him famous will be closing once the Bucks finish their playoff run, there’s no doubt Smith plans to continue his legacy in the yet-to-be-named Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center.

“As long as it makes people happy,” Rick Smith said.

Despite the influence the 550,000-square foot facility has had on Smith, which included comparisons to actor Will Ferrell in “Anchorman,” the attachment is to the tradition and not the venue.

“We don’t feel real emotional about that,” Joan Smith said. “I think there were more memories (at the MECCA) than there have been at the Bradley Center.”

Smith’s fame was hardly intentional. On National Marquette Day against Villanova in 2007, he noticed plenty of jubilance from students during “Jump Around,” yet commented that no alumni were jumping. A nearby fan quipped that Smith was not jumping either.

“One of the guys behind me said, ‘Well, what’s your problem?’” Rick said. “What’s preventing you from jumping?”

He answered the dare despite sporting a business suit, and ESPN’s cameras quickly noticed.

“I got up and started jumping,” Rick said. “As soon as I started jumping, ESPN put me on national news. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on national TV.”

Joan’s phone then began to ring. It was one of their sons, a Georgetown student at the time.

“Was that my idiot father that I saw on TV on jumping?” Joan remembered her son asking.

Smith never intended for his in-seat athleticism against Villanova to become a Bradley Center mainstay. The student section wasn’t going to let his moment on national television be a one-off.

“All of the sudden, the next game they started playing the song, and I’m not jumping anymore,” Smith said. “The students are screaming at me, and I don’t know what they’re saying. And then the people around me said, ‘They want you to get up and jump.’”

Now Smith can’t visit his alma mater without a student stopping him. He’s constantly asked for autographs. On the way out of one game, a stranger wanted him to hold her baby.

“This woman comes up to me, and she says, ‘Oh, you’re the jumper!’” Smith said. “She’s holding an infant. This baby looked like it was born a couple of weeks ago, and she says, ‘Could you hold my baby?’ and, ‘I want to get a picture of you with my baby.’”

As the founder of R.A. Smith, a civil engineering firm in nearby Brookfield, Wisconsin, Smith has attracted employees to his firm because of his Marquette pride.

“There are people who want to co-op here and they like the fact that I fly a Marquette flag outside the building right on Bluemound Road,” Smith said.

His notoriety spans far greater than Marquette’s 100-acre campus. Strangers have stopped him in Florida, San Francisco and New York, among other far-flung places.

“We were walking on one side of the street (at Times Square) and there were fans walking on the other side of the street, and they were saying, ‘Hey, there he is!” Smith said. “I have people coming up to me no matter where I am in the country, and they say, ‘Hey you go to Marquette, right?’”

During the Tom Crean era at Marquette, Smith visited the BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. As the MSG staff played “Jump Around,” Smith proudly started jumping. Despite sitting well into the second level of a 20,000-plus seat arena, Smith made it onto the Jumbotron of the world’s most famous arena. “How the heck could they find me?” Rick said.

Marquette basketball players know who he is, too.

“I didn’t even know the basketball players knew who I was,” Rick said. “I went to the 100-year celebration of Marquette basketball and saw some of the players. They said, ‘Oh sure, we know what you’re doing at the games. We’re glad you continue to come.’”

While Joan said the idea of her joining him in the tradition “isn’t going to happen,” she is as much of a fan as Rick.

“I never wanted to put the season tickets in his name,” Joan said. “In case we ever got divorced, I didn’t want him to get them.”

In the 11 years of jumping around, Smith has practically developed the handbook for how to properly jump when his signature song plays. When he filmed a video with the College of Engineering, he gave students specific instructions on how to properly jump.

“If you’re going to jump, you have to jump off the ground,” Rick said. “You have to get off your feet and jump as high as you can, and I don’t want to see any people faking it.”

“He doesn’t just pretend to jump. He actually really jumps,” Joan said. “That’s different than people that just bob up and down.”

That has come with some occupational hazards. About once a year, the Bradley Center will play the song during a media timeout, which is significantly longer than a 30-second team timeout.

“Sometimes if he has to jump during a commercial timeout, it would last quite a while,” Joan said. “He would just get all sweaty, and I’d worry a little bit about his health having to jump for such a long period of time.”

Some people have suggested that Smith starts pretending to jump as he gets older, to little avail.

“They’re saying, ‘Why don’t you fake it and just go up and down on his knees, but don’t go off the ground?’” Rick said. “No.”

He won’t be in section 227, row B, seats six and seven of the Bradley Center next year, but Rick Smith will continue to jump “as long as people enjoy it.”

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