By LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator
For the Mavericks’ newest Stomper, the pinnacle of bullish mascot evolution would be the high-flying, crowd-pleasing antics stoking NBA fans of the Chicago Bulls.
Stomper imagines that donning the persona of an NBA mascot is at the top of a bucket list that started taking shape back in junior high.
“There are two teams I have my eyes on. If I could get in it would be a dream come true,” Stomper shares. “The first one is Chicago Bulls Benny the Bull. And two would be Bango the Buck with the Milwaukee Bucks.”
It was Benny the Bull’s trampoline-launching slam-dunking that caught Stomper’s imagination in their adolescent years. By the time Stomper was a senior in high school, mascoting was a pursuit of passion.
‘I’m planning on doing more aggressive stuff to make Stomper more, like, I guess, cool, if that’s the right word to use.’– THOUGHTFUL STOMPER OBSERVATION
Since their Pittsburgh, Pa., high school didn’t have a mascot, Stomper became a polar bear entertaining crowds at the city zoo. After that, their next gig was at the local Chuck E. Cheese. Later, a short stint with a minor league baseball team helped point Stomper originally toward the University of Montana.
“That’s why I first had to go to Montana because of their really high turnout with NBA,” Stomper reasons. “Their mascots are, like, really aggressive.”
The Montana program requires mascots to tumble, so Stomper started learning the basics.
“There were certain skills that you had to know beforehand like you had to throw a minimum round-off back handspring, back tuck before you could even try out,” Stomper shares.
While mastering those techniques, Stomper soon put their opportunities into perspective. Chances of making the cut at Montana coupled with the realization that a marketing major wasn’t a good fit, Stomper began looking elsewhere.
An opportunity to fuel Maverick pride while pursuing a degree in automotive engineering pointed Stomper toward Minnesota State Mankato.
Being a Maverick has already offered greener pastures. While Stomper’s big head did require some gymnastic adjustments, crowds were soon thrilled this fall by Stomper’s hand-springs and backflips.
“I’m planning on doing more aggressive stuff to make Stomper more, like, I guess, cool, if that’s the right word to use.” Stomper indicates.
Taking a page from the NBA, Stomper wants to add a mini-trampoline to mascot accouterments. The goal is nothing too complicated – just sprinting toward the trampoline, jumping, and doing a flip in mid-air before slam dunking the ball.
And Stomper knows how to do that?
“I mean, I’ve messed around with mini-tramps,” shares the always-optimistic Stomper. “I mean, I’ll still need some practice but it shouldn’t be as hard as trying to do a back handspring or back tuck from a dead floor.”
In the meantime, being in Stomper’s skin brings its share of rewards and challenges. Among the first realizations was that Stomper generally has tunnel vision.
“Stomper is always looking left and right. ‘Cause if you’re looking straight ahead, you’re blind to you’re left and right side. That’s why Stomper misses a lot of high fives.”
Interacting with kids is a fun reward – with its challenges.
‘Kids just think you’re a giant stuffed animal. And sometimes they may try to tackle you.’– THOUGHTFUL STOMPER OBSERVATION
“Kids just think you’re a giant stuffed animal. And sometimes they may try to tackle you,” recalls Stomper. “I remember at an elementary school gig I was doing, I had, like, a good 20-30 kids, like, all jump on me. I could barely stand, but I managed to hold them and stand my ground but they were like all crowding on me.”
Still, kids are easily entertained.
“It’s really fun, just interacting with people – kids, especially,” Stomper shares. “’Cause you know they can be entertained by anything you do. You can throw, like, a fist bump and they think it’s the best thing ever.”
Another challenge turned skill is reading body language.
“The main thing with a mascot is you’ve got to read their body language because some people don’t want to get messed with,” Stomper reasons. “As much as you want to mess with them, you’re probably, like, know when to step back. But usually, you know you can mess around with them and do stuff and they’ll get a good chuckle out of it.”
Stomper also knows a six-foot purple critter with horns can be menacing to some young fans.
“The hardest ones are like the kids who are afraid of you. You want to keep your distance in those instances. You kind of want them to come to you, not you approaching them. You’ve gotta learn sometimes that keeping your distance is more powerful than trying to force interaction.”
Being Stomper does offer a license for mischief.
“You can get away with things normal people can’t get away with. I could slide down the handrails at games and if I was doing that without the costume on, like, they will probably kick me out,” Stomper surmises. “Also, I got silly string I can spray people with. You can’t just go up to someone and just spray them with silly string. Or just, like, pick up someone’s kid.”
Stomper envisions a future that includes preparation for national competition and recognition at the annual NCAA Mascot Nationals that draws University of Minnesota’s Goldy Gopher, Brutus Buckeye from the Ohio State University, and 10-time champion Aubie the Tiger from Auburn University.
“I’m hoping maybe in the next year or two I can get enough clips to send in a highlight reel and then maybe get into the competition and see what happens from there,” Stomper ventures to imagine. “Going up against the big schools and potentially going head-to-head to see who comes out first will be quite interesting.”
Ready to keep reaching high, Stomper continues to eye the NBA brass ring. One never knows what will happen when believing powers possibilities.
“If the Bulls or the Bucks are saying we want some new talent – I’ll be the first to hop on that train.”