Northwestern Wildcat Mascot – Peter Keller never imagined he would be standing, sweaty and naked, behind a stadium shopping booth. But there he was, holding a towel in front of him with friends in San Diego as he changed into his Willie the Wildcat outfit after the 2018 Holiday Bowl. Being a mascot at a major university is hard work, unknown, often thankless and unpaid. work.. However Keller, a 2019 Northwestern graduate, describes his three years as Willie as the best of his life. Keller, now a 22-year-old Travelzoo associate producer, even performed at the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the 2018 Big Ten Football Tournament. He recently shared what it’s like to be a fan favorite.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, a friend shared a Facebook post on a group text about testing. I thought that would be great, so I emailed the coach not expecting to hear anything back. He responded to my email within five minutes, and of course, I found myself going ahead and doing it.
Northwestern Wildcat Mascot
It was divided into three parts. The first part was silent communication and showing emotions. They’ll say, “Give me a really sad comment or a remarkable action.” In the second episode I was given a very random suggestion – a tent, a stress ball and a horse on a tree and I had to design with it. The third part was playing. And, of course the speakers at Walsh-Ryan weren’t working during the performance part, so we had to use the phones to play the music which was very annoying.
File:20180206 Um Nw Willie The Wildcat Hugging Benny The Bull 7dm27119.jpg
Well, a few people did. My closest friends—all the people who convinced me to try—knew, but we had to hide it.
A Northwestern tradition for all former Willie the Wildcats: Wearing Wildcat arms and legs at their graduation ceremony. Keller received a degree in communications in June 2019. (Courtesy of Peter Keller)
Oh, yes, of course. There were good moments after the game when you leave the field and see some faces that you were happy with, and you want to do it again. But then remember that they don’t know who you are. It’s also good that they don’t know who you are, because if you mess up during the show it’s like, “Who cares? They don’t know me.”
I don’t think so. We always look forward to interacting with home fans. We’ve always felt that Northwestern didn’t use Willie enough compared to other schools. Goldy the Gopher in Minnesota, they put him on everything: posters, their school store, the locker room. On game days, Goldy would have a grand entrance into the ballpark, and that was a big deal. We’ve always wanted Northwestern to get Willie out there more, so I tried to do as much as possible.
Northwestern Mascot Willy D. Wildcat Cheers On His Women’s Golf Team… News Photo
We will rotate the events and sometimes our coach chooses when we work on certain events. If you want to make it a priority and work on other games, you can, which I did, and to a great extent. I covered a little bit of everything: football, basketball, golf, soccer, hockey, swimming, birthday parties and general events, which I really didn’t like.
Keller debuts Willie the Wildcat golf apparel at the 2017 Middle East Golf Championship in Atlanta, GA. (Courtesy of Peter Keller)
No, but you’ll get some really cool Under Armor gear at some events, as well as free food and drinks. We were also able to be housed in rooms during the [three weeks of] summer training, which was nice not having to worry about rent. For example, at Penn State, the mascots change every two years, and they get a full ride. At other Big Ten schools, mascots get scholarships and stipends, but we don’t.
Definitely a run at the 2017 men’s NCAA Tournament. For one, it was my first year on the team. For two, we were only allowed to bring one mascot per school, and my coach chose me. To say that I was the first mascot to play in the NCAA tournament the first time my school made the NCAA Tournament was pretty cool. It makes me emotional.
Amazon.com: Northwestern University Wildcats Sports Team Jumbo Mascot Vinyl Decal Sticker
Also, our first game against Vanderbilt, I remember my coach telling me they were going to have a mascot dance contest at halftime. I’m not a bad dancer, but dancing in front of them all in the middle of the court is terrifying. Willie won the dance-off. It was definitely one of the best moments of my time as Willie.
Another highlight was last year, the Big Ten Championship game for football. I remember when Northwestern took the field [against Ohio State]. I was proud of my school especially after the way the  season started [with the loss to Akron].
It was the second year of basketball. One of the upperclassmen who usually worked the plays had to cancel at the last minute, so I took the game [against Michigan]. It was a play where they passed from Nathan Taphorn to Derek Pardon with .7 seconds left. They hit the court and it was the first time Northwestern had more than 20 wins in a season. I stood behind Nathan Taphorn as he passed.
The first thing that comes to mind is the fatigue that comes with getting dressed, but you wouldn’t necessarily call it a challenge. It’s just something you have to deal with. They’re out there giving it all on the field or the court, so I always felt like I had to do the same.
Willie The Wildcat Helped Promote Recycling During Northwestern University’s Earth Month Celebrations. Photographer Credit: Sustainnu
We’ve had times where people have gotten sick or seriously debilitated after games. You should be careful in drinking water and eating when you need it. It is about consistency and awareness about your performance. We are lucky. Our heads allow us to drink while wearing them.
You see eye to eye [with Willie]. With most mascots, you see them through their mouths which is the easiest. You get used to it, especially if you do a lot of events. But once you take a few weeks off, it’s hard to get back on track. It’s like tunnel vision. You don’t want to babysit, which I did before. You just don’t see them because they are too small and not in your line of sight.
Walking up and down the stairs is also very difficult. He is just aware of his surroundings. When we visit, I try on other mascots. Willie’s is one of the worst in the Big Ten. For example, Herky Hawk has a big mouth where you can see everything. Willie has a small head, which helps the game but makes it harder to see.
Bad We were lucky to have five suits [for the four of us], but they all smell. The thing that stinks the most is the head, because you can’t wash it. Everything else, you can throw in the wash, but you don’t want to do it too often because the ink gets dull. We had a special bottle in which liquor was mixed with water, and every time we got dressed, especially on our heads, they poured clothes. This was a way to clean it and remove the smell.
Willie The Wildcat (northwestern)
Be there, be on the sidelines for all those different games. But traveling was probably the best thing I could have done. It was great because it allowed me to go places I wouldn’t otherwise go. I got to go to Salt Lake City [for the NCAA Tournament], San Diego for the Holiday Bowl, Atlanta and some schools I’ve never been to before, like Maryland and Rutgers.
There are many plans and strategies, especially for away and home games, when we play opposing teams and aggressive fans. We always want to make sure we have at least one person with the mascot because opposing fans like to have a lot of trouble with the mascot. We had an incident at Michigan, this was before my time, when the teams were coming off the field and a fan bent down and took his head off. He broke our mascots neck, and he had to go to the ER and everything.
Also, people like to draw the mascot and pat or grab your butt. So, there are a lot of amazing things to deal with.
You also have to be creative about where you change after games because we can’t use the locker room or bathroom after games.
Better Know A Gavitt Tipoff Games Opponent: Northwestern
I did it during practice. We are on the shoulder, and someone on my shoulders. We were trying to set the track and he ran too fast, and I threw my back out. I had a back problem for two months. I could still move, it hurt so much.
Yes. I definitely want to
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