The few, the proud, the Trumans

After a seven-year hiatus, Truman the Tiger will compete for best mascot
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:55 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

MU’s Spirit squad is going to the Chick-Fil-A Cheer and Dance Collegiate Championships today, and not just the cheerleaders.

After a seven-year hiatus, Truman the Tiger is going to take part.

The championships are organized by the National Cheerleaders Association and will be from Thursday through Sunday in Daytona Beach, Fla. The event brings together not only the best cheer and dance teams from high schools and colleges from around the country, but also the best team mascots.

Schools were invited to send in a 90-second video of their mascot, and last November the five students behind Truman did just that. When the results of the qualifying teams were announced two weeks later, Truman was one of the six mascots to be invited and was seeded second.

The news came as no surprise to Michael Phillippi, the Truman squad captain. Phillippi said willingness to pursue its goal set this team apart from past Truman teams.

“Everything just fell into place,” he said. “Everybody got really motivated to do it; we set goals and that was one of our goals to do this year.”

So happy together

Phillippi said this year’s team, which also includes Ben Marshall, Barton Howe, Christian Badger and Kolby Lee, was “really charged up about the nationals” and had put considerable effort into making the video.

This was no small feat for the mascot team; it spent almost 40 hours scripting and choreographing the 90-second clip, said Lee, who started as a mascot this summer. According to Lee, the team spirit they share is the secret to Truman’s success.

This team spirit is even more remarkable considering the five share little in common other than being Truman. With majors that range from journalism to agriculture, the five students have a wide range of interests and have different ideas when it comes to having fun when they’re not in the tiger suit. As an example, Lee, a freshman, says his ideal hangout would be Déjà Vu or the Field House. But Howe, a graduate student in journalism, claims he doesn’t even know where the Field House is.

However, as the success of their video implies, disparate personalities do not mean clashing opinions or tense relations.

“Everybody’s pretty brotherly, joking around all the time,” Phillippi said. “We all have a good time, everybody’s pretty open. We’ve never gotten in a fight or anything.”

Howe agreed and said that despite an age range in the group from 18 to 35, there is little discrimination among them.

“I feel like we all treat each other the same,” he said. “It’s not like someone’s a senior, someone’s a freshman, someone’s from Missouri and someone’s not. We’re still all Truman.”

The diversity among group members is a benefit, Lee said, because their different backgrounds and personalities add a new dimension to their relationship.

“We all just meshed together,” he said. “We all just brought a different aspect to the table.”

A coach's pride

This close bond did not escape the attention of Suzy Thompson, who has coached the cheerleading squad for about 12 years. Last year, she took over the responsibility of the mascot from the marketing department.

Thompson labeled the five as the “most sharing and giving young men I have ever been around.” She described the atmosphere during mascot training as “very upbeat and always positive.”

“They are thoughtful of one another,” Thompson said, “If someone cannot do something, another person will help him out.”

The mascots have been a great addition to the squad, she said, providing comic relief for the weary cheerleaders during practice.

Phillippi said this team spirit started to form when the spirit squad attended a five-day summer camp last year at the Lake of Ozarks. While the cheerleaders were slogging it out in practice, the mascot team got to lounge by the pool and discuss the skit for their video. He said they would go around the resort in the Truman suit playing with kids.

“We bonded really well over camp because we had a ton of fun,” he said.

A select few

Now, more than six months later, Phillippi said that whenever he hosts a party, the other Trumans are the first people he invites.

“We all have an unofficial fraternity that we are part of, it’s like ‘The Trumans,’ ” he said. “It’s pretty cool, it’s pretty elite, and that’s what we like about it. It’s really fun.”

One aspect that makes it so much fun is the memories. Ask any of them what their most memorable moment together was and the answer would be unanimous — the men’s football game against Nebraska. Just the mere mention of the game got all five nodding excitedly.

“That Nebraska game, you will remember that day for the rest of your life,” Howe said.

“And you will remember who you were there with,” Lee said, finishing Howe’s sentence.

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