The Nittany Lion is one of the most recognizable symbols of Penn State, but the man (or woman!) inside the suit doesn’t get the recognition of being Penn State’s mascot until he or she prepares to graduate.
Jack Davis has been the Nittany Lion for the last two years, but with graduation forthcoming, he’s revealed himself and is preparing to help pick the next mascot. The Nittany Lion can’t reveal his or herself until the senior day football game the Lion’s senior year, at which point he removes his mask.When I met with Davis in the HUB yesterday, he was finishing up his duties at Founder’s Day, which interestingly enough was the very first event he went to as the Lion two years ago.
Now it’s time to select a new Lion. The process includes three main parts and starts with an information session tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Multisport Complex. Those considering applying will be able to ask Davis questions and get some information on what it’s like to be Penn State’s mascot.
“I never thought I could be the Lion, but after I found it was an open application I trained for months,” Davis said. “There was no reason for me not to at least give it a shot.”
Just because Davis trained for the February audition since September doesn’t mean you have to do the same. One of the previous Lions decided the day before applications were due that he wanted to try out and was ultimately selected.
The first official step will be an application, which includes questions like “What does Penn State mean to you?” so the selection committee can get a sense of the applicant’s personality. Those who are chosen to move on to the next phase will interview in front of a 12-person panel that includes Davis, other former Nittany Lions, and various coaches and administrators from athletics.
The final phase of the process is an in-person try-out where applicants will have to prepare a two-minute skit and perform a 30-second improv. The panel of judges will give the applicant a random object and they’ll have to showcase their talents as a mascot. Davis, for example, got a coat hanger.
“The Nittany Lion is representing Penn State whether you’re in the suit or out of the suit,” he said. Essentially, personality is just as important as physical skill. Speaking of which, there’s only one true requirement for anyone who wants to be the Lion: You must to be able to do 50 one-arm pushups.
Perhaps you’ve seen the Nittany Lion do flips or splits, but technically none of that is required. “Play to your strengths,” Davis said. “If you can dance, dance. If you’re funny, be funny.”
There are a number of perks that come with being the Lion; in addition to a scholarship, the person in the suit gets the opportunity to travel the country, official Penn State athletics gear, and a parking pass that’s good anywhere on campus. However, Davis said you also have to love what you’re doing — it’s a huge time commitment and a lot of work.
“If you love it, it’s going to be the most incredible year to two years of your life,” he said. “It’s been the most incredible way for me to experience Penn State.”
Davis invites and encourages anyone with questions to reach out to him either by email ([email protected]) or phone (610-675-6676).