Every camera was focused on the players of Western KentuckyUniversity as they erased a 16-point deficit in the final five minutes of their “First Four” game against Mississippi Valley State. The commentators yelled their excitement in the final seconds, trying to be heard above the screaming of the Hilltopper’s fans! March madness at its best!
Off air, another kind of athlete was revving things up, egging the delirious fans on. Big Red, WKU’s big, round, likeable mascot was strutting its stuff. “I consider myself a world-class dancer,” Red boasted in a post-game interview with dailymile. “You have to be athletic to do the stuff I do!”
During the regular season Big Red puts on quite a show at WKU’s home games. Its dancing prowess is complemented with crowd-surfing skills, high-flying dunks and repeated runs up and down the steps of Diddle Arena. “I have to get to those Hilltopper fans,” Big Red reported. “And if you don’t think you have to be athletic to crowd surf, try it yourself.”
Asked about its training plan, the mascot shrugged its shoulders. “I don’t really have a training program. You either have it or you don’t.” Big Red has it for sure, claiming to be more athletic than JeremyEvans, former Hilltopper, who now plays for the NBA’s Utah Jazz. “I can throw down food as well as Jeremy Evans throws down dunks!” Red brags.
Truth be told, however, the Hilltoppers mascot’s supposed athletic dominance is occasionally called into question. Big Red went up for a slam dunk at a home basketball game and its feet flew out from under it. The furry creature crashed to the court on its back. At first, the fans thought it was a joke and laughed. They quieted when it took their beloved mascot awhile to get back up.
The toughest part of being a mascot, according to Red, is having to turn down appearances due to other obligations. Not that it’s a problem most of the time. The red thing has super powers. “I’m like Santa Claus,” it said. “I can be several places in a short time frame.” Like St. Nick, Big Red has to deal with being mobbed by kids. “When I visit local schools, I sometimes ‘borrow’ items to put in my mouth, and forget they're in there. That gets me in trouble every time.”
No one knows now whether the 16th-seed Hilltoppers will put up another “W” against the 1st-seed University of Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the big dance. One thing that’s sure, though, Big Red will be there cycling or rollerblading or stair-climbing or dancing to rile up the WKU fans! And those Hilltoppers will show their appreciation their favorite off-camera athlete with raucous cheering!