The University of New Mexico’s Spirit Program members log countless hours practicing cheers and routines to meet the physical demands of performing tumbles, flips and other feats on game day.
Now imagine doing all of those things while having limited vision and mobility and being weighed down by a heavy, bulky suit. That is the case for those who transform into the Lobo Louie and Lobo Lucy mascots that fans see at so many sporting events.
Louie has been a University of New Mexico icon since the early 1960s, while Community Relations and Spirit Coordinator Madison Baumann estimates Lucy was introduced as a mascot sometime in the mid-80s.
Some may think Louie and Lucy are a couple, but that isn’t the case. Baumann said the two are actually brother and sister.
Sometimes there are multiple students that earn the chance to become the Lobo mascots, but that hasn’t been the case lately. Lobo Lucy was a rare sight for fans this past season, as no one was able to take on the role full-time.
While the responsibility of the other iconic figure rested on the shoulders of a single student — a figurative and literal lone wolf — to keep the role of Lobo Louie going.
Baumann said very few people know the identity of the man inside the suit, and there shouldn’t be a face or a voice attached to the mascot. She cited autonomy as something that is necessary to preserve the continued viability of Lobo Louie and mascots in general, because someone with a new face and voice won’t be far behind.
“Any of our mascots have to be extremely careful not to ruin that persona,” she said. “Obviously, most students graduate in four to five years and then they move on.”
Baumann said she reached out to the student who eventually became Lobo Louie, thinking he would be a good fit once he came out of his shell. She said she believed he possesses all the characteristics to be successful and overcome obstacles.
Of the many challenges that come with the job, the anonymous student said not being able to speak while in character is one of the harder ones.
“I’m very vocal...and I’m very loud, so it’s definitely a struggle,” the student said.
He said he has had to find creative ways to get his message across using non-verbal communication.
Louie is typically led around by a cheerleader who stays by his side on game day. He demonstrated the way he puts his fists together and separates them, simulating the act of breaking something — this alerts his handler that he could use a break.
But there are plenty of other challenges beyond the sensory deprivation that accompany the gig. The student said he has to dedicate a lot of time to practice and exercise to be in shape to perform while wearing the garb.
Some of the other responsibilities that come with the job are similar to those that student-athletes are tasked with. He must maintain a certain GPA and attend practices and games, all while engaging and performing in front of fans.
He also needs to prepare for certain interactions with fans, he said.
“Mentally, you have to prepare yourself to handle certain situations where people are in your space, because you are the mascot,” he said.
While in character, there have been people who got a little handsy or grabbed at him, he said. Additionally children, armed with either curiosity or maybe some mischievousness, have pulled at his tail or poked at his eyes to test how realistic Louie is.
But he said he has mastered the art of patience and has always kept his composure. This remained true even when some of the pain was self-inflicted.
He recalled an incident in which he carried a flag onto the basketball court at the recent Mountain West Tournament. The court at the Thomas & Mack Center during the tournament is elevated, and Lobo Louie tripped while running onto it — taking a hard fall onto the hardwood. Both he and Baumann laughed as they recalled how he played it off with the crowd and turned what could have been an embarrassing moment into something fun.
The student said he has definitely been able to step out of his comfort zone and has learned how to have fun while being in the suit.
Football games are probably his favorite sporting events to perform at, because there is a lot more space to move around, he said.
One thing Louie doesn’t have to worry about is the costume itself. Baumann said the equipment managers have been fantastic about keeping the suits, which she referred to as “furs,” clean and available when needed.
She said there are a variety of furs that are catered to the particular sport the mascot will be attending, along with four tops — two in the form of Louie and two of Lucy.
The biggest personal accomplishment was becoming proficient at tumbling while in the costume, he said.
He performed some of the moves after a quick wardrobe change, culminating in a series of flips near half court at Dreamstyle Arena, even though there were no fans in The Pit to appreciate it.
He said portraying Lobo Louie has allowed him to grow, and he has appreciated the opportunity and looks forward to continue playing the part again.
Official tryout forms for playing Lobo Louie or Lobo Lucy must be submitted by Monday, and the mascot tryout will be held on April 21. For tryout times and location or any other additional information, students can email email@example.com.
Alanie Rael is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers men’s and women’s skiing but also contributes content for football. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AllyRael.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at sports @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.