Lion Troop And The Nittany Lion’s Quest For Mascot Greatness
Every year, mascots from some of the most recognizable Division I schools battle it out for the title of best mascot in college sports.
Lion Troop is committed to ensuring that the Nitanny Lion gives the likes of “Bucky Badger” (Wisconsin’s mascot) and “Sparty” (Michigan State’s mascot) a run for their money. Also, I would be remiss not to mention that LSU’s mascot is named “Mike.” Mike, if you’re reading this, I love the modest and out-of-the-blue nature of your name.
So, anyway, what is Lion Troop?
“So, the Lion Troop is technically an idea that the Lion himself had when he was first chosen last year,” Lion Troop member Ryan Heidig explained.
Lion Troop aims to get the Nittany Lion into the Mascot Division 1A Championship, a competition that is held in conjunction with the UCA cheerleading championships in Orlando every year. The competition requires a video submission and ultimately leads to the acceptance of only around 10 college mascots.
Lion Troop creates content for the Nittany Lion to use in the mascot championship submission video. The group is comprised of six Penn State students, five of who are videographers and one of which creates and supplies props for the Lion to use in the video. According to Heidig, a successful video is very prop-heavy.
Last year, the Nittany Lion placed 12th after the video submission, narrowly missing the cutoff for an invitation to Orlando.
Winning such a competition is by no means an easy task, but being the Lion is certainly not an easy job, either.
“The biggest thing is that there is a person in there,” Heidig said.
The Lion needs to be in top physical shape – just imagine all of the pushups he’ll have to do if Saquon Barkley keeps running for 200+ yards each game. All of those pushups and flips are a huge selling point according to Heidig. Also, the heat inside of the suit only adds to the physically demanding nature of the job, something Heidig believes that people tend not to realize.
“I don’t know how he does it sometimes,” Heidig admitted.
The Nittany Lion takes part in a lot of activities, some more well-known than others. Obviously, the Lion plays a massive role at the home football games, but he also makes appearances outside the university. All of this time and energy takes its toll, and just having the Lion Troop as a group of personal supporters really makes a difference for the person inside of the Lion suit.
Heidig works as a videographer for Lion Troop and said that his position has been something of a full-circle experience. He grew up going to Penn State football games and now he gets to see how kids light up when they see the Nittany Lion. For Heidig, working as a videographer for the Lion has been a humbling and fulfilling experience.