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The Tiger

The Tiger

A Tiger Is … The journey of a mascot: part one of a series on the Tiger

Ashley Stout, Asst. Photo Editor

When asked to name the face of Clemson University, many different answers could be given. Most commonly, however, an athlete or coach is perceived to represent the university in the national eye. The issue with that is athletes and coaches come and go, but there is a constant at Clemson: the Tiger.

Since 1954, the Tiger has been a symbol of Clemson and has gained popularity throughout the decades with the introduction of the Tiger Cub, which debuted in 1993. 

Each year, students try out for the opportunity to climb into that suit and become one of the several men and women who have represented the university in this unique way. Wes Scruggs, the Tiger from 1997-1998, echoed that idea, saying, “The Tiger [is] more than a figure at sporting events. He represent[s] the university at all events and [is] an ambassador to drive school spirit and recognition.”

Every student who has put on the suit is an individual with their own personality, but for a brief period in time, they are all the same in the eyes of thousands of fans across

the country. 

That is because, as the mascot, the students wear a mask in order to interact with the world. Not just the literal mask of the suit, but also one when they are outside of it. 

Although more people know who the Tiger is now, it is still important to maintain anonymity during your tenure in the suit. The students who put in their time and sweat cannot be known to their fellow students or fans until they graduate and walk across the stage wearing their gloves, when everyone gets their first real look at the face behind the beloved mascot.

There isn’t much difference between the perception of the mascot and the perception of the student athletes. A current popular answer for the face of the university is Deshaun Watson. While he is idolized by thousands as a superb athlete, he is still a student going to classes during the week. Much like the Tiger, Watson also has two identities. The difference is his “mask” doesn’t hide who he is from fans.

In both scenarios, there is a larger-than-life air surrounding the figures who are not much different than the people standing next to them.

That is the beauty of mascots; while they are special to the fans, the person wearing the suit is just an average student.

Picture the girl next to you in English class, the guy walking up the stairs of Daniel or the kid jogging around campus. Any of them could be the Tiger because the mascot is not some superhero who does pushups to entertain 80,000 fans in Death Valley; he or she is a symbol for all of us and our unified Clemson spirit.

That idea is one of many which encourages students to try out to be the mascot each year. They don’t have to be anything but themselves and it is an opportunity for students to become a more engrained part of the university. 

That is what the Tiger really is.

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