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  • Writer's pictureAnderson Bobo

Turn Down for What? How One Dance Captivated a School.

Stephen Putnam, a 5th year senior at the University of North Florida, is not your average student. He is one of the most recognizable people on campus and for good reason. Stephen put the University on the map in 2015 with his crazy dancing. Crazy dancing is not a hyperbole, it’s simply the only way to describe it. Stephen described his performance as “I act like an idiot, people put on a camera and I keep acting like an idiot”.

This anticipated event happens every men’s basketball game at North Florida in the UNF Arena. Towards the end of the game, during one of the last official timeouts, the song “Turn Down for What” by Lil Jon starts to blast. The camera pans over to the student band and focuses in on Stephen. As the hook and bass to the song drops Stephen jumps out of his chair and waves his arms frantically in the air. As the song goes down so does Stephen, as he takes a quick breather. You think he’s done, but it’s only the beginning. The chorus ramps up again and Stephen goes even wilder, with water bottle in hand, he pours water all over his face, forcefully throws his shirt off, and waves it as an extension of his arm. His actions can make the game seem secondary at times.

The crowd always goes wild, as did the nation in 2015, when a clip of him going crazy at the Atlantic Sun men's championship game went viral. “Everyone in the arena already knew what was going on. When SportsCenter picked it up we moved from the UNF Arena to the whole country.” Stephen was put on a pedestal in the college basketball world, even making the famous “One Shining Moment” video montage that concludes the NCAA Basketball Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.

This all started in the fall of 2014, during his freshman year. Stephen was part of the school’s band and he was tired of the dead atmosphere in the arena. He decided to liven it up. His band director supported him and soon boosters and people in athletics including Josh Baker, the marketing director “kept prodding me to do more”, Stephen noted. The students and crowds weren’t the only ones who take notice of his actions. The athletic department and players do as well. The athletic department has even granted him a small scholarship to show appreciation of his skills.

Ervin Lewis, the Senior Associate Athletic Director of Facilities and Operations at UNF, realizes how important he is to the product on the floor, saying his actions are “Opportunity to get fan engagement. You hope to create an atmosphere to get the fans to come back . . . The more you can get the fans into it, the better” and that Stephen “Created a tradition”.

Garrett Sams, a junior on the men’s basketball team, is a player that thrives off an electric atmosphere. When asked about Stephen’s impact on the game Sams said, “when they put him on the big screen it definitely gets everyone in the arena going and you can really feel that he changes the atmosphere”.

Stephen wasn’t prompted to do this by anyone. He was a normal student. He’s set to graduate this spring with degree in Secondary Education and Music Education. Stephen’s dancing is still used for ESPN’s March Madness promotions five years later and he won’t be forgotten for a long time.

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