April 7, 2006
RSU Lets ‘Cat Out of the Bag
The ‘Cat is finally out of the bag.
The Rogers State University mascot – the Hillcat – made its first public appearance this week during an April 5 student event on campus and at the RSU Foundation's annual scholarship auction on Friday night.
When RSU first unveiled a graphical representation of its new Hillcat mascot in September, many members of the campus and the community were clamoring to know how the mascot costume would be represented.
Count RSU President Dr. Joe Wiley among that crowd.
"Since the Hillcat is a fictitious creature and it is a fairly unique mascot, we had wide latitude in which to develop a mascot costume that would provide a physical manifestation of RSU's school spirit," Wiley said.
The Hillcat mascot will serve as a brand for the university as a whole, and the costumed mascot will serve as RSU's ambassador both on and off campus, he said.
Immediately following the unveiling of the Hillcat in September, work began to develop costume concepts, refine mascot sketches and choose a color scheme. After those decisions were finalized, the mascot costume was created this winter by Street Characters, Inc., a Canadian firm that specializes in developing mascots.
In March, the university held tryouts for students interested in donning the Hillcat suit and portraying the mascot during the coming school year. From those tryouts, two students were selected – one to serve as the primary performer and the other to be an alternate performer, as well as to provide assistance to the mascot during university functions and other public appearances.
Bo Esmeyer, a business administration freshman from Catoosa, was selected as the primary performer and Brad Ferguson, a corporate communications sophomore from Owasso, was selected as the alternate/mascot assistant. Esmeyer is the son of Larry and Shannon Esmeyer, and Ferguson is the son of Roger and Marla Ferguson. Both students will receive a tuition benefit in exchange for their services representing the university.
Stepping into the Hillcat suit was a somewhat surprising turn of events for Esmeyer, who was heavily involved in sports during high school but had never been a public performer prior to coming to RSU.
At RSU, he discovered a talent for mimicking Napoleon Dynamite, the oddball title character of the 2004 movie that became a cult classic among high school and college-aged students. He turned that talent for mimicry into a part-time job as he hired out to portray Napoleon Dynamite at public and private events.
When the announcement went out this spring about the Hillcat mascot tryout, Esmeyer didn't initially consider participating, but his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers urged him on.
During the tryouts, students donned the costume and performed a short routine for a panel of judges consisting of students and staff. Esmeyer wowed the judges with his high energy level, creative routines and his readily apparent comfort level as a public performer.
A big hurdle for Esmeyer will be to develop a persona for the Hillcat, who doesn't speak, by only using his feet and hands to suggest the mascot's emotions. Additionally, Esmeyer said he is concerned about making the character unique.
"I don't want to do the same thing all of the time and these first few performances are going to be very important for establishing the character," he said.
Because the Hillcat suit limits the wearer's field of vision, it will be important for Esmeyer to have an assistant with him to help guide him around crowded areas and avoid obstacles. Ferguson, who is serving as the assistant, will also have to closely watch Esmeyer's routines so that he can seamlessly step into the suit and perform when called upon.
Esmeyer, as the inaugural Hillcat mascot, knows that he is developing a tradition for many years to come.
"I'm a little anxious (about being the first mascot), but I'm definitely ready to start forming the character," he said. "I'm really excited about performing for RSU students, and I can't wait to see what little kids think."
During the campus unveiling on April 5, children from the RSU Child Development Center attended the event, and they were delighted to meet and hug the colorful Hillcat. RSU students, faculty and staff also were delighted during the event, as many lined up afterwards to have their photos taken with the mascot.
RSU junior Adam Turner, a business administration-management junior from Claremore, said there was a lot of talk among students following the campus event.
"Those that were there (for the event) were really impressed, and those that weren't able to make it really want the chance to see the mascot in person," he said. "I was really impressed by the mascot, and I am really excited to see the opportunities that having a mascot will provide for the university."
Wiley said that he received numerous positive comments regarding the Hillcat following its initial public appearances this week.
"From the feedback that I have received from students, faculty, staff and community members, I am very pleased with the results," he said. "I believe the Hillcat will be a staple of our campus life for years to come."
For more information or to request an appearance by the mascot, call the RSU Office of Student Affairs at (918) 343-7579.