The Man Behind the Lion

By Krista Murray

The Penn State New Kensington Lion mascot sits atop the Nittany Lion Shrine.

The Penn State New Kensington Lion mascot sits atop the Nittany Lion Shrine.

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – The student behind the Penn State New Kensington mascot will be retiring from the lion suit at the end of the 2014 spring semester, but recalls his time as the Nittany Lion with a sense of fulfillment and Penn State pride.

Since last January, the newly appointed Nittany Lion made it a priority to be seen at every campus event, and from sports events to orientations, this student mascot has been the symbol of pride for Penn State New Kensington.

With all of these events, one could assume how difficult it might be to juggle time as the Lion as well as time for his education, but the student shrugged it off stating “It’s all about time management.”

“I promised the university and I promised myself that people would see the lion- he would be around,” said the student mascot. “The Lion is about school spirit and my job is to get people excited and make them smile.”

Being the student mascot is, obviously, not an easy task. Certain requirements for the Lion include being as energetic as possible, going to university events, and most importantly, not talking while in the suit. Staying anonymous is key to being the lion, and the student has made that a considerable priority when wearing the suit.

“The first time I put on the suit- yeah- I was nervous,” said the mascot due to all of the requirements, “but after one or two tries I got the hang of it.”

Since his first few events and onward, the Lion has been instilling school spirit in every individual and explained that one of his favorite events to mascot at is basketball due to the spirited crowds. Even though he stated that he has never lacked the energy, trying to get a crowd excited can be a daunting task.

“Last week it was hard to get the crowd cheering,” he said. “But even if you’re tired you just have to bring that extra ‘umph’ to the event.”

Eric Bennardo, a Communications major at Penn State New Kensington and avid fan of all events for the campus, said that the Lion “adds to the energy of sports events. He does a good job in getting everyone excited.”

Along with sports, the student mascot also enjoys the orientation event of inviting new students to the campus. This is due to his hope that he will inspire incoming students to share the same love and school spirit for the New Kensington campus that he has had for the past four years.

Current Lion ambassador, Craig Synan, has witnessed the student mascot at these orientation events and stated that “The Lion brings the pride better than anyone else can.”

The Lion said that out of all the events he attends, his favorite thing is “Taking pictures with people. I’m what they call a photogenic lion.”

This anonymous student has worked exceedingly hard to put campus pride in the students of Penn State New Kensington and he has absolutely done so. Although he is graduating in the spring of 2014, he is nowhere near finished being the spirited Nittany Lion. He will be participating for the rest of the academic school year in activities such as THON, blood-drives, and of course other sports events.

“He has put the best in me,” said the student referring to the mascot suit. “He makes me feel good about myself and I hope that the next person that wears the suit will respect it as much as I do. That is most important to me because I will always put the Lion before myself.”

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