A Farewell to Big Thunder

Big Thunder

Jadon “Big Thunder” Lamphear can still hear the voice of ESPN’s “Stanford” Steve Coughlin inside his head.

Coughlin, a commentator on the nightly edition of SportsCenter hosted by Scott Van Pelt, looked at the red-bellied Big Thunder playing the tuba and remarked, “He’s inside of that?”

It’s been more than a year since Lamphear, a junior communication major, appeared on Scott Van Pelt’s ‘The Best Thing I Saw Today’. He still can’t believe it.

“We’re just some random school in southern Utah,” Lamphear said. “And then, boom, SUU is on the opening segment of SportsCenter. And they’re showing my face and my body.”

After two years distracting opposing free-throw shooters, the lightning-chested, ever-jiggling superfan told SUU News that Saturday’s contest against the University of Idaho will be his last final appearance as Big Thunder.

“I’ve really done what I wanted to do,” Lamphear said. “I helped get the basketball team the support that they need. I think we’ve set three attendance records this year, so it feels like I’ve accomplished what I wanted to.”

Lamphear has become a staple at SUU men’s basketball games over the last two seasons. Big Thunder shakes the confidence of opposing free throw shooters by donning a variety of costumes ranging from The Little Mermaid to a lumberjack.

The persona debuted on November 29, 2018, in SUU’s win over San Diego Christian Community College. His first costume was a “sexy devil”, complete with horns, fishnets and a painted moustache.

A lot has changed in the years since. Lamphear initially enlisted the help of friends in painting his iconic red lightning bolt, but has since taken complete control of the iconic design displayed on his chest. He started painting a lightning bolt on his chest and letting it dry before the game, then applying a fresh coat of paint at halftime.

Each costume involved extensive planning and careful attention to detail. Lamphear sewed his own skirts for his viking and Little Mermaid ensembles, and stitched together a pair of pants for his Nacho Libre look. In total Lamphear created 26 unique costumes.

Van Pelt and Coughlin were not the only ones to take notice. KSL’s news team, especially co-anchor Deanie Wimmer, fell in love with Big Thunder.

“[My favorite part of being Big Thunder is] the random people that come up to me and take selfies and tell me, ‘Oh dude, I love what you do,’” Lamphear said.

Standing shirtless in front of an arena’s worth of people is a vulnerable position to be in, but Lamphear advocates for accepting who you are no matter how you look.

That doesn’t mean Big Thunder has been resting on his laurels. Lamphear estimates he’s lost between 80-90 pounds since his first appearance.

SUU’s men’s basketball team embraced their superfan, and they’ll miss his presence under the basket.

“He’s the face of our great student section,” head coach Todd Simon said. “He’ll be sorely missed. We appreciate everything he’s done. He’s brought so much life to the arena.”

Simon chuckles when asked if he had a favorite costume.

“The cat was pretty good. I thought that was pretty funny. He’s famous. People still come up to us and talk about seeing him on SportsCenter. That’s brought so much attention to our program.”

Lamphear has been overjoyed with the progression of SUU basketball, from a team that finished 2-27 in 2013-14, into a postseason participant in 2018-18. He hopes to inspire more students to show their support for the squad.

“I want people to remember that no matter who you are or what you look like, you can do whatever you want,” Lamphear said. “Don’t be afraid to show your school spirit.”

While Big Thunder will not return for all of the T-Birds’ home games next season, Lamphear hinted that he might not hang up the paint brush for good.

“As they said in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker: ‘No one is ever really gone.’”


Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: SUU Athletics