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Becoming the Nittany Lion: Behind The Scenes

Taken by Nina Elia
February 18, 2013

With the upcoming graduation of Robert Nellis, Penn State’s former Nittany Lion Mascot, a new student has been chosen to adorn the beloved Nittany Lion costume.

“The Nittany Lion is one of the most recognized symbols for The Penn State University, and it’s one of the most renowned mascots in the country,” Larry Rotz, a judge and member of Back the Lions, said.¬†”He is involved in the community. It’s not just sporting events, he’s with THON, he goes to schools, organizations and people all around the country know him.”

Tryouts for the Nittany Lion started in the beginning of February. Rotz said candidates had to fill out an “extensive” application and endure rigorous interviews. Applicants also had to have a 3.0 GPA or higher, said one of the candidates.

According to one of the candidatess, there were three rounds an applicant has to go through to be the Nittany Lion. At round one, there were 15 applicants; by round three, there were six remaining.

The third and final round was held this Monday at the Multisport building. It was there that the six applicants competed in front of a panel of eight judges, a crowd of 200 people, and the former Nittany Lion himself.

The competition began with each of the applicants suiting up in the Nittany Lion costume and performing a two minute skit. Skits featured members of the cheerleading squad and close friends. Songs for each skit varied from “And We Danced” by Macklemore, “I Want It That Way” by The Backstreet Boys and “Lonely” by Akon.

After the two minute skit, the judges asked each candidate to reach into a bag and grab an object. Some of the objects in the bag included an orange, a glove, a windshield scraper, and a cup. The candidate was asked to rev up the crowd with this object, and the outcomes ranged from air guitar to baseball.

After all of the skits, each applicant came out and did 50 one-handed pushups, Nittany Lion style. This thrilled the crowd, and everyone began shouting, “one, two, three…forty-nine, fifty!” in synchronization with each push-up.

After the skit, improv, and pushups, the judges went into a side room to make a decision on who the next Nittany Lion mascot would be for the next two years. Later on in the week, they would choose one backup from the five remaining.

Larry Rotz said that while making a decision,”We discuss the pros and cons of each candidate, the strengths and which candidate did the best.”

After a half hour of waiting, the judges finally came out and announced the next Nittany Lion. A crowd poured from the stands to the event level to congratulate the new Nittany Lion as he shook hands with Nellis and the judges.

The new Nittany Lion’s tuition will change to in-state tuition as well as be supported by Raise the Roar and the Norm Constantine¬†scholarships, said Rotz.

So who is the new Nittany Lion?

Well, I can’t tell you. I was asked not to reveal any names, so if you weren’t there, you’ll just have to wait until senior day next football season to find out.

image Nina Elia
Penn State - Pennsylvania State University is a land grant institution founded in 1855. Penn State is one of the country's most renowned public research universities and boasts an enrollment of about 100,000 students across its 24 campuses. Read more