Growing up, Michael Garcia used to watch the Mountaineers on TV from his couch in Fairmont.
Pepperoni roll in hand and older brother at his side, he used to see the mighty Mountaineer Mascot on the screen and dream about what it would be like to don the buckskins and carry around the musket himself.
Those buckskins and that musket are all his now. Garcia, a West Virginia University junior political science major from Fairmont, was named Saturday (March 8) as the University’s 63rd Mountaineer Mascot and will serve during the 2014-15 school year.
“I have been thinking about this for a very long time,” he said. “I have the optimism and personality – a genuine happiness – about being a Mountaineer. It comes out in everything that I do and say ? You have to live life with happiness, otherwise it becomes meaningless.
“The Mountaineer is about overcoming obstacles and surviving. The Mountaineer survives all the bad and lives for the moments that matter.”
Garcia believes WVU has an “intangible” that many others universities around the world don’t – its people.
“The University is meaningless without its students, faculty and staff, so in that regard the people really bring the passion, excitement and family atmosphere here,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words, but WVU has that something special.”
Garcia will start his duties for the 2014-15 year with the Gold-Blue spring football game on April 12 at Milan Puskar Stadium.
As the Mountaineer Mascot, Garcia will be make nearly 300 appearances across the country including visits to elementary schools and hospitals – and of course the many athletic events on and off campus.
When he saw his predecessor Jonathan Kimble hoist the musket at midcourt and celebrate two years ago, Garcia’s passion for the position grew even stronger.
Garcia has gained a slew of advice from former Mountaineers outside of Kimble, too. In fact, he interned for former Mountaineer Mascot Natalie Tennant (1990) in the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office last summer, an office where fellow former mascot Brock Burwell (2010, 2011) also works.
Garcia, who was a finalist for the Mascot position a year ago, is a member of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, the Alpha Kappa Psi professional business fraternity and participates in Young Life College.
His mother received a master’s degree from WVU, and his older brother and sister also went to the University, so his family is rich in Mountaineer pride.
"I have been thinking about this for a very long time. I have the optimism and personality – a genuine happiness – about being a Mountaineer. It comes out in everything that I do and say ? You have to live life with happiness, otherwise it becomes meaningless."
Garcia was announced as the Mountaineer Mascot at Saturday’s men’s basketball game vs. Kansas. He was selected out of a field of reviewed applicants who went through interview with students, faculty and staff and a cheer-off earlier this month. Garcia will start his duties for the 2014-15 year with the Gold-Blue spring football game on April 12 at Milan Puskar Stadium.
He was chosen from four finalists. The others were: Brady Nolan, sophomore athletic coaching education major from Reader; Donnie Platt, a first-year graduate student in athletic coaching education from Wheeling; and Summer Ratcliff, a senior political science and legal studies major from Bunker Hill. Nolan will be asked to take the role as alternate Mountaineer Mascot.
WVU has embraced the tradition of a Mountaineer mascot officially since 1934, but unofficial mascots started appearing at sporting events in the 1920s. There have been 63 different Mountaineers at WVU.
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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