Cheer coaches and pep club leaders around the country are dusting off their mascot costumes in preparation for football season.
But at Greenbrier High School, there isn’t an offseason for the mascot. That’s because Bobby Bobcat has taken the gig to an entirely new level. He’s everywhere, all the time.
Friday night football games. Spring sports. Community events. Visitations. And yes, even back to school shopping at Walmart.
“He loves doing it – that’s his passion,” Greenbrier football coach John Elmore said. “He’s a great student and a wonderful young man. He does a good job trying to hit as many sports as possible throughout the year.”
Think of Bobby Bobcat as a politician without a hidden agenda. He just wants to make people smile and spread school spirit. And, if all goes according to plan, the Greenbrier student that plays Bobby hopes to eventually become a professional mascot.
“The thing that keeps me going is making the fans happy,” he said. “I know if I can make the kids and even the older adults happy, I am making a positive impact on this community.”
Although many people know his identity, the student behind Bobby’s creation tries to remain as anonymous as possible. He doesn’t want to ruin the fun for young Bobcat fans. (For the purposes of this story, we will simply refer to him as a ‘Greenbrier student.’)
“If the kids find out, that’s my worst fear,” he said. “They’ll lose their mentality about Bobby. Bobby is bigger than life to the little ones.”
The Greenbrier student began his sophomore year earlier this month, but his Bobby Bobcat alter ego has been going strong since middle school. The idea started when the student, then a fifth-grader, was an honorary member of the Greenbrier pep club during his sister’s senior year of high school.
“Throughout the season, I realized I liked hyping up the team and acting goofy,” the Greenbrier student said. “I didn’t know what mascots were in fifth grade, I just wanted to be that team spirit.”
Once he reached seventh grade, school officials decided it was time to make him the mascot. He was called to the office just before a pep rally one day, much to his surprise.
“They sent me to the office, and they gave me a box,” he said. “I was thinking I was in trouble. I never get sent to the office. I was like, ‘Oh Lord.’”
Instead, the school had something else in mind: they gave the student free rein to make Bobby his own. The box filled with the Bobby Bobcat costume was his to bring home. He took advantage of the opportunity and went to the party store to decorate the costume with clothes and props.
“It was big responsibility to have it,” he said. “Bobby’s got to look professional. You never really see Bobby with no clothes on. That just doesn’t seem right. We want to make sure Bobby stands out on the field.”
Then he caught the bug. He loved hyping up the middle school teams and their fans. It allowed him to spread positivity while watching sports, which was a perfect combination in his mind.
“Once you get that feeling that you’re making a difference, you want to keep doing it more,” he said. “The more events you do, the more fun it is. It doesn’t matter how busy your schedule gets.”
But when the student began high school last year, he took Bobby Bobcat to the next level. That meant an even busier schedule and an increased social media presence. His family even bought an updated Bobcat costume on their own dime.
“In middle school, I was testing the waters,” he said. “When I got to freshman year, I didn’t know where my limits were. I didn’t know how much my body could take. I figured I’d push it to the max and see where that got me.”
Bobby appeared everywhere. Pep rallies were still a highlight, but the student also tried to attend nearly every notable Greenbrier event. He became a dignitary of sorts, and the community noticed.
“The high school wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “They went from shocked to hyped. Everyone was surprised to see how amazing Bobby was getting. Everyone started to love him.”
Bobby’s hard work received national recognition from Varsity Brands, a sports equipment company. The organization named him as a top four finalist in its 2019 School Spirit mascot competition.
Greenbrier administration nominated Bobby for the award without his knowledge, and they tried to keep his high finish a secret. But an Instagram post by another mascot spilled the beans just days before the ceremony, which was planned for a pep rally.
“I didn’t know I had that big of an impact,” he said. “They were like, ‘Just act surprised.’ Bobby is great at acting.”
There are difficulties that come with spending several hours in a thick, furry suit. The student does cardio and strength training to ensure his body is ready to endure Bobby’s busy schedule. Staying cool is always a challenge, particularly for outdoor events.
“There was a fan inside, but it just blows hot air, so we turned it off,” he said. “I’ve got an ice vest. It keeps me cool for a good hour or so. I’m still going to sweat, but it’s not as bad because it makes all the sweat cool.”
The Greenbrier student hopes to continue his mascot career in college, and eventually, into professional sports. If being a mascot alone doesn’t pay the bills, he plans to use his eventual sports management degree to become a scout.
For now, the student is focused on making Bobby Bobcat even better. That means new dance routines, refreshed outfits and more brand-building on social media.
“I really want to up the antics,” he said. “They’re giving me a longer routine at pep rallies. The most important thing is to trust God, and whatever doors he opens, I’ll go through them.”