The majority of people do not know his true identity. They only know him by one name – Gus.
Gus is the mascot at Georgia Southern University, seen at all sporting events, special occasions and sometimes just walking around campus greeting students. However, there is a person inside that suit and that person has a story.
There are only two people in the world that have the opportunity to wear that big eagle head and those enormous yellow talons. Two people that may have the most spirit and dedication to the university than anyone else. And one of them just lucked into the job.
“Typically, people have to try out to become Gus, but I got lucky. I started mascotting when I was a freshman in high school. So, I had four years of experience and I knew someone who knew Gus whenever I got to Georgia Southern,” Gus said.
It all started back in the late 1980s as a mascot that resembled more of an overfed chicken known as The Eagle. However, Georgia Southern’s Homecoming of 1997 brought along some changes. The student body chose to rename the mascot. The name they chose? Gus. Along with the name change, the university wanted to give their new mascot a healthier, more fit look. Therefore, they purchased a muscle suit and Gus was reborn.
“The suit smells like Hanner. So it’s got that weird smell to it. And obviously I’m wearing tights. So as soon as I put those on, I automatically feel less manly right off the bat. And then there’s the big feet and the muscle suit that take a while to get used to,” Gus said. “The muscle suit is by far the most constricting thing. As far as vision goes, it’s fine, but I don’t have any peripherals. So I can’t see anything right below me. I’ve gotten pretty good at being aware of what’s around me and everything but it’s still not perfect.”
Wearing the suit and becoming acclimated to it is difficult. Add in the rules and restrictions like not being able to talk while in the suit and keeping it a secret makes for a tough job in and of itself. However, all of these things are completely worth it to Gus. It is a small price to pay considering the reward that comes from it.
“It is a paid job so I do make some money. I get t-shirts pretty much anytime I want. I get to meet other cool mascots from other schools and I get to go a lot of cool places – all paid for,” Gus said. “Most of all though, I get to see a lot of people smile. Even when people are having a bad day, just walking up and giving them a high five or something, you get to see their face light up. So that’s probably the biggest perk. I love that.”
Even with those exciting things, being Gus is not an easy job. Imagine having to be the life of the party at a football game, even when the team is losing. That is why Gus does what he does though. He gets to be there to lift the spirits of the fans and the team. From beginning to end, Gus is there.
Being energetic the entire game is not easy either. It is difficult, even as a fan. But think about wearing a 10-pound suit in the heat of a Statesboro afternoon football game at the same time. It gets even harder. However, keeping that energy is a key role that Gus plays.
“As soon as energy dies down, people can tell and Gus just becomes another guy on the field. Whereas if Gus has this constant energy, he’s more than just some dude in an eagle suit. That’s what makes Gus,” Gus said.
Many people think that Gus is crazy. Friends and family even occasionally make fun of him for getting paid minimum wage to do all of these tasks while dancing around in an eagle suit. However, Gus does not see it that way. He sees it as an opportunity to experience life in a way that not many other people will ever get the chance.
He is the guy that runs the flag out before all of the players at football games. He leads the echoing chants that ring throughout the stadium. He gets unlimited access to see behind the scenes of all sporting events and gets to do it all with people that make the job fun.
“My favorite event was the first time I did a Georgia Southern football game. I mean, right there at the beginning with Freedom’s flight and then Gus runs the flag and he goes to the center of the field and everyone starts chanting. I mean, obviously you’ve got your nerves going. But when you’re out there, all you hear is the roar of the crowd and it’s intense,” Gus said.
Gus cannot tell people that he got to do that though. It is a secret that must be kept. Even if someone does find out, his identity has to be concealed. Revealing this would destroy the character, and fans would begin to see Gus as the person he is instead of Georgia Southern’s mascot.
“I love the energy and the fact that every time the school mascot walks into the room, people smile. So getting the chance to put on the suit and go out there and make people smile and be around that constant energy is really exciting and I really like it,” Gus said.