Sophomore Jordan DeBoer has always had school spirit. In high school, he played football and would try to get the crowd excited at basketball games by initiating a roller coaster or a wave of hands from the audience.
Now he has the chance to hype up other students as one of the students who dresses up as the University of South Dakota’s mascot, Charlie the Coyote.
“My job is to show the school spirit — when the times are exciting and when they’re down, to get the crowd going and be as enthusiastic as possible during those times,” DeBoer said.
DeBoer’s had a long connection to USD because his parents went and met at the university and were surprised when he announced he was one of the ones picked to be the mascot.
“My mom didn’t believe it at first,” DeBoer said. “She thought I was pulling her leg.”
The idea of auditioning first came to him when he was walking through Patterson Hall last spring and saw a flier for auditions. He’d originally planned on joining a lot of organizations on campus his first year, but he felt it wasn’t enough.
“It’d always been my dream to come here and get involved in the school,” said DeBoer, one of four Charlie Coyote mascots. “My freshman year, I was not that involved.”
With a group of under half a dozen students, he learned a dance to Pharrell Williams’s song “Happy” and had to improvise with various props such as a flower, fake dumbbells and a bone.
In costume, he enjoys walking around at games and giving the audience high-fives while in disguise.
“The little inner-child in them comes out,” DeBoer said. “They play along with it even though they know it’s not real. They’ll just act like it’s real for that couple of seconds they interact with me.”
DeBoer takes on the role of Charlie for away games for the football and basketball team. Sophomore Diego Marquez is another face of the mascot. Over the summer, Marquez worked as Charlie at various events.
For him, being Charlie was a chance to be himself.
“I’m not afraid to be weird, I’m not afraid to go outside my box,” Marquez said. “I just do whatever all the time.”
As a member of the dance team, he’s been able to apply his skills to a silent mascot.
“Obviously you can’t talk, so you have to be really energetic with your motions,” Marquez said. “It’s a lot of fun how you get to express yourself not using your voice, but using your motions.”
Like DeBoer, Marquez also likes the anonymity that comes with the suit.
“Nobody knows who you are, so I can do what I want — no judgment,” Marquez said.
The remaining two Charlie Coyote mascots declined to comment for The Volante article.
But both Marquez and Deboer dislike the same thing about the suit — how the thick suit traps heat in, making them sweat easily and making it hard to breathe. To beat the heat, DeBoer wears an Under Armour shirt, a sweatband and stays hydrated.
“I drink water hardcore — a lot of water the day before something, even if it’s for an hour the next day,” DeBoer said. “That little bit of water helps keep cool.”
To put on the multipart costume, Marquez starts with the pants and suspender straps, the top and then the hands, which create a challenge because there’s only four spots for fingers, so he puts his middle and pointer finger in the same part of the paw.
“That makes it a little difficult to grab things,” Marquez said.
Then he puts on the platform shoes and finally the head, which creates problems of its own if the wearer isn’t aware of their surroundings.
“It could fall off, and you don’t want that to happen,” Marquez said.
Over the summer, he made an appearance at a basketball camp for kids. When he went to shoot a basket, Charlie’s head accidentally fell off.
“I can’t see, then the head just comes off, and I think, ‘oh my gosh,’ and I hurry and put it back on,” Marquez said. “They just started laughing. It was definitely really embarrassing.”
It’s a job graduate student Allison McEldowney said she couldn’t see herself doing because she enjoys observing sporting events.
“I like to get into the games and watch the games,” McEldowney said.
She said she imagines students who work as mascots to be goofy, outgoing and athletic.
Both Marquez and DeBoer said they would enjoy continuing to work as the mascot.
“Hopefully, if auditions come again, I’ll audition for it,” DeBoer said. “Now that I have almost a year under my belt I can make good use of it in coming years.”
(Photo: Charlie Coyote cheers on the football team in the DakotaDome during the Dakota Days game vs. the University of Northern Iowa Oct. 11. Chris Timmerman / The Volante)