So how many 70-year-olds do you know who can do push-ups after every West Virginia University touchdown?
In the midst of WVU s nationally ranked run to college footballs Bowl Championship Series, the schools buckskin-clad mascot is also marking a milestone of its own.
A quiet one. And never mind the report of the rifle each time a WVU footballer finds the end zone.
The mascot this year is officially turning 70, dating back to the 1934-35 academic year, the first year the mascot was sanctioned by the schools Mountain honorary. He was Lawson Hill, but there were unofficial ones before that, in 1927, 1933 and 1934making the Mountaineer one of the more venerable mascots in the annals of college and university life.
WVU is acknowledging the birthday as part of this years Mountaineer Week, an annual observance of all things Appalachian that runs Nov. 3-12. Several former mascots plan to return for the special observance. In its seven-decade run, the mascot has kept steady with changing perceptions of the state, morphing from a moonshine-swilling, bib overall-wearing hillbilly punch line into the more noble, buckskin-wearing depiction of Mountaineer pride and purpose it is today.
The present-day Mountaineer is just as much an icon and ideal of the state of West Virginia as it is WVU .
And thats a fact not lost on current mascot Brady Campbell, a wood science senior from Charleston who grew up rooting for the Mountaineers.
Im a native West Virginian, so I know how much the Mountaineer means to this state,he said.The Mountaineer doesnt just represent WVU . The Mountaineer represents all of West Virginia.
Natalie Tennant will tell you that, too. In 1990, Tennant, who went to the same Marion County high school as Coach Rich Rodriguez, became the first female to don the buckskins, and she remains so to this day. Ittook a little whileto win some of the fans over, as she says, diplomatically.
The Penn State game that year stands out, recalls the former television anchor who now works in the state Treasurers Office while running a public relations firm with her husband.
It was a late-season lashing by the-then rival Nitany Lions in Morgantown, and one fan, in particular, took out his gridiron frustrations on her gender.
He yells down, �€~Hey, Mountaineeer! Theres only two good things about this game!I said, �€~Whats that, sir?even though I knew what was coming. He said, �€~One, its almost over. Two, were almost done having to put with you.I just shook my head and laughed. What else could you do? It was being the Mountaineer, and I wouldnt have traded the experience for anything.
Dave Ellis, the 1959 Mountaineer, savored the slapstick turns he took during his tenure as the Mountaineerincluding an inspired bit of gridiron theater during the Homecoming game with Pitt that came off a little like Davy Crockett Meets the Marx Brothers. The scene was Old Mountaineer Field, a rickety, rollicking bowl of character and fandemonium that sat below Woodburn Hall in the heart of WVU s Downtown Campus.
Ellis, a retired oceanographer who now lives in Bowie, Md., still laughs out loud when he recalls a halftime moment thats now almost a half-a-century old.
The Panther mascot was a lithe gymnast, almost a full head shorter than Ellis. The pair worked out a bit on the spot where Ellis chased the Panther across the field, ending with the Pitt mascot, in typical feline fashion, scurrying up one of the goalpostswhere a lunatic game of keep-away then ensued.
Hed let his tail dangle down, and Id make a grab for it,Ellis said.At the last second, hed yank it away. The crowd loved it.
Ellis, mugging for the fans, stomped in his boot in a thespian dither as the Panther did some tall, good-natured gloating to the Mountaineer faithful. But Ellis had an idea. Hesnuckaround the goalpost, pointed his muzzle in the direction of the Panthers posterior, and pulled the trigger.
He did a fall and a tumble and I scooped him up over my shoulder and walked off the field,Ellis said.
The cheers rolled down in waves as the Mountaineer was redeemed.
That was it,Ellis said, laughing.That was being young and silly and just having a good time.
Mountaineer mascots through the years
- Brady Campbell, present
- Derek Fincham, 2004-06
- Trey Hinrichs, 2002-03
- Scott Moore, 2000-01
- Brandon Flower, 1998-99
- Andy Cogar, 1996-97
- John Stemple, 1994-95
- Rock Wilson, 1991-93
- Natalie Tennant, 1990
- Ben White, 1989
- Dan Pearson, 1988
- Tom Dulaney Jr., 1987
- Matt Zervos, 1986
- Tim Nilan, 1985
- Mark Boggs, 1984
- Michael Russell, 1983
- Robert Richardson, 1982
- Ed Cokeley, 1981
- Andy Mergler, 1981
- Cecil Graham, 1980
- James Campbell, 1979
- Richard Poling, 1978
- Bruce Heisler, 1977
- Jerome Scherer, 1976
- Junior Taylor, 1975
- Stuart Wolpert, 1973-74
- Mark Loathes, 1972
- Robert Lowe, 1971
- Douglas Townsend, 1970
- Frederick Reel, 1968-69
- Louis Garvin Jr., 1967
- Kenneth Fonville, 1966
- Edward Pritchard, 1964-65 (deceased)
- WilliamBuckRodger Jr., 1963
- William Thompson, 1962
- Jerry Sturm, 1961
- William McPherson, 1960 (deceased)
- Dave Ellis, 1959
- Robert Allen, 1958
- James McCoy, 1957 (deceased)
- Larry Reppert, 1956
- Fred Pattison, 1955 (deceased)
- John Coyner, 1954
- Dan Oliker, 1953
- Dan Fleming, 1952
- James Almond, 1951 (deceased)
- Thomas Deveny III , 1950
- John Russell, 1949
- Matthew Harrison Jr., 1948 (deceased)
- Sid Gillis, 1947
- James Coughlin, 1946 (deceased)
- Robert Carr, 1945
- World War II years (teams were fielded with no mascot), 1943-44
- William Gott, 1942-43 (deceased)
- Julius Singleton Jr., 1940-41 (deceased)
- BoydSlimArnold, 1937-39 (deceased)
- WilliamBuckwheatJackson, 1936-37 (deceased)
- Lawson Hill, 1934-35 (deceased)
- Unofficial Mountaineers: WilliamBillFahey, 1933-34 (deceased)
- BurdetteIrishCrowe, 1932-33 (deceased)
- Clay Crouse, 1927 (deceased)
There are two Mountaineersthe striking statue and the one that roams the sidelines
Long-time WVU student affairs administrator Gordon Thorn, who retired in 1997, recently wrote a book, The Mountaineer Statue, with public history graduate student Scott Rubin, chronicling the history of the bronze statue that stands proudly at the entrance to the Mountainlair student union.
It was commissioned by Donald DeLue, the renowned sculptor whose works also grace the Gettysburg battlefield and Omaha Beach in Normandy. And as to the popular myth that WVU and NBA basketball great Jerry West was the model for the statueThorn saysnot true.
What is true is that DeLues epic sculptures feature well-muscled, solitary subjects in the classic Roman style, he says. This one was titledMountain Man.It was dedicated Oct. 2, 1971, Homecoming weekend at WVU .
For a full schedule of Mountaineer Week events go to: http://www.wvu.edu/mountaineer_week/