Man of many faces

Justin Law

Justin Meek has a big head on his shoulders.

Sometimes it is an eagle. Sometimes it is a gorilla, and, if all goes well this summer, it may even be an otter. Meek is a man of many faces- a mascot.

The freshman marketing major first became interested in being a mascot when he read a book about mascots.

“I was like, ‘wow, these guys are professional idiots,’” Meek said.

Meek’s first opportunity to be a mascot came his senior year of high school when he got to be DePauw University’s mascot for a game.

 

“I was talking with the pep band director of DePauw University, and they also run the mascot program,” Meek said.

Meek was invited to one of the football games and asked him to be the mascot, “So I suited up and got to be Tyler the tiger… it was a lot of fun, doing that,” Meek said.

Barry Schonberger, dean of students, said Meek is passionate about the mascot opportunities within the community.

Schonberger said Meek contacted him before the school year even started.

“We were at a point in time where we were going through transitions with some of our mascots, and I shared with him before he even got here that absolutely yes, we could love to sit down with him and talk,” Schonberger said.

Meek said he did have to get a physical before he could suit up. Some schools hold tryouts for mascots, but USI does not. Once Meek got to school and settled in, Schonberger put him in contact with the senior mascot.

Meek said a mascot has to be good with people, physically fit and a goofball.

“You lose about 10 pounds in a costume, just one game… with as much as you sweat,” Meek said.

There is a learning curve to being a mascot, Schonberger said.

“The reality is when you’re in that costume, unless you are extremely exaggerated in everything you do, everything comes off as just being nothing, a guy in a suit,” Schonberger said.

Schonberger said he has sent people to mascot camp in the past, though he has not made a decision yet about what the possibilities are for sending Meek this summer.

Meek jumped into the role, Schonberger said, and he is enthusiastic about his role as Archie and has been great about bringing in new opportunities for Archie.

Schonberger said when the school year began, he held a meeting with all three Archies to discuss who got to be Archie for specific games, being comfortable in front of a crowd and to teach them how to deal with unruly people.

“How to deal with the guy you’re standing in front of and he’s not happy with you, how to deal with the six year old boys who take you out at the knees because it’s fun,” Schonberger said.

Schonberger said it is also important to not scare little children.

Meek said the most embarrassing thing that has happened to him while being Archie was when he tripped a bit at his first women’s basketball game, and a fan noticed.

Meek became the mascot for Evansville Rage, local pro indoor football team, when he emailed the owner in the off chance they needed one.

“I found out that they were looking for a mascot,” Meek said. “They already had a mascot costume, they just didn’t have anyone to fill it.”

The costume for Rage is actually a Halloween costume, Meek said. He has to black out his eyes with makeup when he suits up for a game.

Meek said the Archie suit has an oversized head that has a rugby-like helmet inside that straps on. One of the Archie heads even has a fan in it, though the fan no longer works. The suit can also be dry cleaned.

Meek said the Rage costume is made of heavier material and has to be disinfected after every game so it doesn’t stink. The head is smaller and he actually looks through the eye holes of the costume.

Meek said the most embarrassing thing that has happened to him as Rage was during mascot night and his hand fell off as he threw the ball, and it hit the turf.

“I had to grab it, put it behind my back and put it on before anyone noticed,” Meek said.

Meek said he is about to send in his application to be Evan Otter for this summer.

His favorite part about being a mascot is interacting with the fans and being a “goofball,” Meek said.

“I would actually like to be a professional mascot, a professional idiot, I really would,” Meek said, “ I mean I know that’s silly, but I don’t care.”