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Mascot retires, new search begins

When most students consider Friday night football games, they usually envision athletes, cheerleaders, the Nuthouse and a plate of nachos. However, an added element seems to complete the quintessential high school experience: the mascot.

The idea of being the campus’ mascot appealed to senior Phil Unruh when he saw a TV show, Pepper Ann, in which the main character became a beaver mascot, and seemed to enjoy the experience.

“I saw that show, and said, ‘she can do anything she wants and doesn’t look like a moron.’ That’s me,” Unruh said. “The moral is to be the same on the outside as the inside: fun and whimsical. When (Josh) Tosland (leadership adviser) wanted a full time Eagle, I signed up.”

Unruh then spent the next two years as a living cartoon: dancing, running and energizing the crowd as “Fierce” the Eagle.

?At first, it was hard to breathe with the head of the costume on, until I got used to the shortage of air,? Unruh said. ?Some kids would line up to get a hug or a picture with me, but once an elementary cheerleader screamed when she saw me and ran to her mom. I tried to reassure her by taking off my mask, but that just made her tremble with terror.?

Unruh performed at football and basketball games, spent up to five hours on game nights in attempts to promote Eagle spirit.

“As a cheerleader, I know we appreciate Phil because he has such great energy,” Holly Savage, ’10, said. “It’s fun to have someone else that’s really excited about the game. He’s really funny.”

While some mascots practice their tackles and rushes, Unruh concentrated on other skills like perfecting the wave and incorporating new dance moves.

?As the mascot, I was required to spend a lot of time acting hyper,? Unruh said. ?I got bored doing the same things every game and tried to invent new moves all the time, which was very tiresome.?

A mascot’s role is physically rigorous

?I got very hot in the costume; on the beach trip at Mission Prep, however, the temperature was perfect outside,? Unruh said. ?Later that night, as I walked near the bathroom, a girl I didn?t know body checked me from the side. I spent 10 minutes in the bathroom trying to recover.?

Unruh shares his experiences with other students who portray large animal characters. Junior Brighton Gray portrays the Golden Eagle for Clovis West High School, and relates to the struggles and triumphs that Unruh has experienced.

?The hardest part about being the mascot is the intense heat, and that my costume weighs around 30 pounds,? Gray said. ?My favorite part is hanging out with the cheerleaders; they teach me new dance moves. Once, I was doing cartwheels and I ran into a trashcan. That would be my most embarrassing moment. The job comes with some hazards.?

While many students pursue the role simply for fun in high school, others have made it into a full-time career. Ted Giannoulas, better known as the San Diego Chicken, has portrayed a seemingly famous mascot for more than 30 years.

Giannoulas believes mascots have the responsibility to stay positive and energized while encouraging crowd involvement. He advises that although some do not seem to take mascots seriously, the job requires perseverance and talent in order to provide entertainment.

“It’s kind of disheartening because it seems like even our own teams don’t appreciate the mascot,” Unruh said. “I was even beat up in the locker room this year by the football players. It was still amazingly fun and it’s good to know that you’re doing something worthwhile that no one else would do. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and plus it looks good on a resume. I would say people just need to get out of their box because this is essentially a once in a lifetime opportunity, unless you work at Red Robin; it’s so much fun.”

Although Unruh’s plans do not include pursuing a career as a mascot, he holds high hopes for his replacement.

“Since I will graduate this year, we are searching for a new mascot,” Unruh said. “We need someone who will be committed, energized and fun. Meanwhile, I will hopefully move on to film school.”

The position of mascot remains unfilled. Those who wish to be Fierce the Eagle can talk to leadership adviser, Josh Tosland.

For more information regarding Giannoulas and his career as the Famous Chicken, check out the May 17, 2007, article, Freelance mascot attracts thousands.

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