It’s not hard to spot West Virginia University Mountaineer Pride.

It’s students – and faculty – all across campus sporting old gold and blue t-shirts and hoodies each day, even if there’s not a game.

It’s a filled-with-pink WVU Coliseum as the women’s basketball team “Plays 4 Kay” in support of breast cancer awareness.

It’s a “Flying WV” seen across the world: a t-shirt in a remote Swedish town, a flag atop a remote mountain, a banner on the edge of space.

It’s a stadium thundering with “Let’s Go … Mountaineers” chants that can be heard on televisions, computers and smartphones from Morgantown all the way to Milan.

But most strikingly, perhaps, it’s the human symbol who embodies it all: The Mountaineer, the one who wears the buckskins, the coonskin cap, carries a signature rifle.

The Mountaineer Mascot is the emblem of WVU, and in many ways a symbol of the state.

“The Mountaineer Mascot is the perfect mascot for WVU and West Virginia,” says Jonathan Kimble, a senior sport management major. “It represents the people, the heritage and the life among the hills. It represents that we’re hardworking, dedicated and just how much the people care about one another.”

Kimble and three other WVU students are finalists to become the next personification of The Mountaineer, replacing Brock Burwell who has held the post for two years. Those four will don buckskins on Friday (Feb. 24) and compete in a cheer-off during the 9 p.m. men’s basketball game against Marquette at the Coliseum. Each finalist will interact with the crowd and work to impress the selection committee stationed throughout the arena.

Click to hear Mountaineer finalist Taylor Richmond discuss why he wants to change the perception of West Virginians.

Besides Kimble, finalists are Daniel Carlson, senior business administration and international management major from Winchester, Va.; B. Jay Hatfield, a senior athletic coaching education major from Madison; and Taylor Richmond, a graduate student in public administration from Mt. Hope.

The four were selected from an original field of 12 original applicants from interviews conducted by a committee of faculty, staff and students. The winner will be announced during the second half of the WVU men’s basketball game vs. DePaul on Feb. 28.

“I know these other three contestants, and I’ll be happy for any one of us. I know we’ll all represent WVU well,” Kimble said. “We all bleed blue and gold, and we’re passionate about the school.”

Carlson concurred: “The thing about West Virginians and WVU is that we are always willing to sacrifice for one another. It doesn’t matter where you go. If you meet a person from West Virginia, you’ll notice that deep heartedness. They really have that love that comes from within the heart. You can tell the person is genuine.”

Click to hear Mountaineer finalist Daniel Carlson discusse why he wants to be the new mascot.

The Mountaineer is much more than the mascot at sporting events, attending about 250 non-athletic events each year, including tours to elementary school children or speaking to prospective students and their parents at recruitment fairs.

“Being from the state, you learn that it’s a great opportunity to change people’s perception not only of WVU but of the state as a whole. You get to be the ultimate ambassador,” Richmond said.

This year also offers a unique opportunity, as WVU competes for the first time in the Big 12 athletic conference.

“With this being the first year in the Big 12, the image and the representation that we bring when we visit Texas and Oklahoma and other states will be huge,” Kimble said. “We want our fellow Big 12 schools to understand who we really are as Mountaineers. The Mountaineer is truly a part of that.”

Click to hear Mountaineer finalist B. Jay Hatfield discuss his strong southern West Virginia roots.

Being the Mountaineer also offers a chance to repay others.

“I want to give back to the state that has done so much for me. I can’t wait to go to the middle and elementary schools and talk about what it means to be an individual and what it means to live with integrity,” Carlson said. “I can’t wait to go to high school and say, ‘remember those goals you set back in elementary school? We’ve got to remember them and reach them.’ You can have amazing goals.”

Hatfield added: “The Mountaineer isn’t just about being burly at football and basketball games. It represents our Appalachian Heritage and how we’re always fighting toward the peak of the mountain to be the best.”

Carlson, a member of the West Virginia Air National Guard, is a resident assistant at Boreman Hall and the International House after returning to college following a five-year stint operating a drill rig.

“When I swore in as a member of the Air National Guard, I swore my allegiance to the state of West Virginia. You make that your core. You are willing to give up your life to serve for your state,” he said. “Whatever the state needs of me, I’m willing to give. That includes being the Mountaineer.”

Hatfield, a proud southern West Virginian, is a member of the Mountaineer Maniacs’ leadership board and is also a Gold and Blue Student Ambassador.

Click to hear Mountaineer finalist Jonathan Kimble discuss why growing up in West Virginia is such a fulfilling experience.

“Being a Mountaineer is all about leading by example no matter who is watching – whether it’s in the Big 12 commissioner or a fifth grade student who wants to be the next Mountaineer,” he said. “It’s about showing pride for your state and University and our heritage.”

Kimble, the current alternate Mountaineer Mascot, is a member of the Mountaineer Maniacs leadership board and is the treasurer of the Sports Management Club.

“The people here are so passionate. Like [WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins] says, we have no professional teams here in West Virginia, so the whole state rallies around WVU,” Kimble said. “They will always stick with WVU. It’s Mountaineers for life.”

Richmond, a former member of the Student Government Association board of governors, is also a member of Shriners International, a Gold and Blue Student Ambassador and a former alternate Mountaineer Mascot.

“The great thing about being the Mountaineer is that you’re not a character, you’re not a cartoon running around but you are an ambassador for WVU and West Virginia,” he said. “You get the chance to talk to people and tell them why WVU is so great, and why the state is so great.”

By Tony Dobies
University Relations/News



CONTACT: University Relations/News

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter