By Blake Dickinson, Contributor
With fall sports wrapping up and winter sports prepping for a successful season, the most energized individual on campus is busy deciding which cowbell to wear. The school mascot, Durango, is making sure he’s ready to handle the rigorous job of cheering on a his fellow Mavericks to victory
For Durango, supporting his team isn’t a job; its a way of life. After decades of cheering, he is showing no signs of slowing down.
In fact, he says, “I will continue to be the mascot as long as I can. That’ll be as long as my body allows me or until I get poked too hard by a little kid.”
With the university completing the transition to Division I at the end of the year, Durango’s role has become even more prominent.
“My job isn’t just to cheer on athletics anymore,” said the bull, “I’ve also appeared at donor banquets, orientations, the Claussen-Leahy charity run, “Be A Mav” days, and even the chancellor’s grandson’s birthday party.”
Playing such a diverse role is very rewarding. “It’s a great honor to be able to represent this school,” he said, “It’s amazing to think that I was chosen to represent all 15,000 plus students in such an exciting way.”
But Durango acknowledges that this reward doesn’t come without a great deal of hard work. Staying in top mental and physical condition requires a strict training regimen.
“I usually do things like chase cars on campus and do pull-ups on streetlights to make sure my arms are able to do all the waves, clapping and arm gestures,” he said.
Carbo loading the night before big games also helps to ensure he has enough energy to last all day.
Like many athletes, Durango has certain traditions and superstitions that he takes part in to make sure everything goes perfectly.
“The night before games I sleep in the same socks I’ve had since becoming a mascot,” he said, “I also make sure I rub the new Maverick monument.”
This new statue of his likeness on campus has boosted Durango’s notoriety, but he admits that it’s not the most perfect replica.
“I’m more stunning and muscular. Plus it can’t show my determination and motivation to represent my school to the best of my abilities.”
There is no shortage of positive role models in the mascot world for Durango to take after. He mentions figures such as Tony the Tiger have had a strong influence on him.
“I eat frosted flakes every morning to make sure I have a grrrrreat day,” he said.
In the sporting world, he says some mascots such as the Oregon duck or the Michigan State spartan who have arrogant attitudes and are poor examples.
Having a Maverick as the school mascot almost didn’t happen. In 1971, the Student Senate voted for a new mascot and the Maverick defeated the Unicorn by a narrow margin of 566 to 515. Others receiving votes were Roadrunner at 397 and Demon at 346. Durango says that he believes the student body made the right choice.
One advantage of having a mascot as agile as a Maverick is the ability to cheer on ice skates. Besides having to train extra hard, Durango has to grow out his hair to prepare for the cold, practice skating with extra padding, and wear an extra pair of socks on top of his lucky ones.
Although he enjoys traveling to the CenturyLink Center for hockey games, Durango says that the new Center Street arena will be exactly what UNO needs.
“A new arena will mean new traditions, more cheers, and more fan interaction since it will have a reserved student section.”
According to Durango, having all Omaha athletics under one roof will help create more student unity.
This unity will only come if the whole student body is willing to contribute to the Mavericks’ success. Durango says that he hopes everyone will come and participate in cheers and clapping. His challenge to fans is to come up and shake his hand or give him a high five at least once during games.
Although Durango isn’t ready to hang up his cowbell quite yet, he encourages anybody who is interested in becoming a mascot to contact Pam Schwarting, the Director of Community Relations, at email@example.com.
Durango says, “It’s a great job that pays well. But getting to to cheer on the Mavs to victory is the greatest reward.”
As UNO continues to grow as a school, Durango is also excited about opportunities for coaching, training, and even mascot camps that many Division I schools attend. There are currently seven people employed to help give Durango life.
Durango and the rest of the Mavs will be in action this weekend with the men’s soccer team taking on Drake at Caniglia Field Tuesday at 7 p.m. and again on Friday with women’s soccer playing Western Illinois at 3 p.m. and volleyball playing Denver at 7 p.m.