Meet the Mascots

The Stories of 7 Local Mascots & The Faces Behind Them

Mascots and sports have been inextricably linked for more than a century. In a high school setting, mascots are used to build school spirit across campus, encourage involvement by students and faculty, and create an identity for the school. From predators – like the lions – to marauders – like the pirates and the buccaneers – our area high school mascots have been chosen for a variety of reasons, but they all have one thing in common: They’re beloved by fans of all ages. Here, we share the stories of seven local mascots and the faces behind them.

By Mary Beth Wallace

Chattanooga Central High School Mascot:

POUNDERS

 

Established in 1907, Chattanooga Central High School is one of the oldest public high schools in the state of Tennessee, and the school comes with a storied history to boot. 

Known as the Warriors in the early days, Central’s football team became a powerhouse in the 1930s – pounding opponents left and right. A 1935 article in The Times, penned by reporter Springer Gibson, first coined the term “Purple Pounders,” and the nickname stuck. 

While the Pounder name endured, Central lacked a physical representation of their school spirit for decades. “When I first started at Central in the 2000s, I really pushed for a mascot – I felt that this was a vital part of creating school spirit,” says Steve Lewis, athletic director at Chattanooga Central. “Then Finley King became the new principal, and he agreed that we needed a mascot. We spent some time researching mascot costumes trying to find the perfect one. When we finally came together to compare notes, we had chosen the exact same mascot!”

The mascot they chose was a towering blacksmith wielding a hammer and anvil. They named him Stan the Pounder Man in honor of Stanley Farmer, one of the great football coaches at Central, and Stan quickly became a well-known and respected presence at games and pep rallies. 

Stan has a special stand – called Stan’s Stand – at football games where he dances during timeouts. Sometimes, he even pulls fans from the stands to help entertain the rest of the crowd. Tanner Robinson, one of the first students to serve as Stan the Man (2011-2013), had a big hand in creating this tradition, as well as Stan’s personality. He explains, “The character was still new when I took over, so I was able to really build the character into what myself and Mr. King thought he should be – a character that the school and the fans would know and love.”

Robinson believes that the job of being a school mascot is more than what most people think. “You must be willing to work hard and have dedication,” he shares. ”You have to figure out how to entertain a crowd without being able to say a single word. It sure isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, but it is definitely fun.”

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Gordon Lee High School Mascot:

TROJANS

“Once a Trojan, Always a Trojan.” That’s the slogan for Gordon Lee High School, where the Trojan has been the mascot ever since the school was established in 1930. 

It wasn’t until 1967, however, that a Trojan suited up for a football game. Standing tall at 6 foot three, senior Gary Miller was asked to ride in on a white horse named Lady for Gordon Lee’s homecoming game against Davis High School. Miller rented a Trojan costume – helmet, cape, sword, and all – and joined the football team as they entered the stadium. Miller adds, “I also came out riding Lady at halftime. When the band struck up, Lady took off, and I held on for dear life! Fortunately, everyone thought that I did that on purpose.”

After Miller’s sole performance, the tradition of a live mounted mascot lay dormant until 2010, when sixth-grader Dalton Green took the reins. Green had been heavily involved in agriculture for years, and he appealed to the school board for the chance to ride one of his horses and be the Trojan. After some persuasion, Green finally got the green light.

Green rode a couple of different horses before finding the perfect one for the job: Traveler. Green explains, “At the start of each home game, Traveler and I would lead the football players out onto the field with my sword in the air. Then, whenever a touchdown was made, we would run back and forth on the home side.” Green wore a handmade costume that included a helmet, sword, and shield. “The helmet was the real deal, with horse hair and everything,” he shares.

Green and Traveler quickly gained fans in their own right. “Traveler was the star of the show more so than I was,” Green says. “We would arrive at the games early so that kids could get their picture taken with us. It was really special to get to do something that brought people so much joy, and I got to share my love of agriculture with the community.” 

When Green graduated in 2017, the live mascot was once again discontinued. Green believes that the tradition could be revived, with the right person (and horse). “I would love to see someone carry it on in the future,” he says. “Being the mascot gave a lot of meaning to my time at Gordon Lee.”

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Red Bank High School Mascot:

LIONS

The lion is a timeless symbol of courage, strength, and boldness, making it a pretty appropriate mascot for high school football teams across the country – including Red Bank High School.

When the high school was first established in the late 1930s, the faculty came together to select their school’s mascot. “Come to find out, the superintendent’s wife was a big fan of cats,” explains Laura Crane, a 1982 graduate of Red Bank. “So they start researching all of the cat mascots around the state. You had panthers, tigers, wildcats, but at that time, no one had a lion! Since the lion is the king of the jungle, it seemed like the perfect fit.”

 Fast-forward a couple of decades, and the lion mascot became a fixture at high school football games. Initially, this looked like a cheerleader dressed in a light brown jumper and a lion mane. By the late 1970s, the mascot had a full costume and would interact with fans every Friday night. The mascot was eventually given a football jersey to wear, as well as an endearing moniker: Leo the Lion.

 Lexi Stoner took over the role of Leo in 2014, her senior year at Red Bank. “Leo’s role was to greet and play with kids on the sidelines at the games,” she shares. “Leo would also mimic the cheerleaders during the pep rallies and games.” She adds, “My favorite part of the job was seeing kids light up when Leo came out.”

 One of the more recent students to try on the suit was Gabriel Jones, who asked for the job in 2019. “Leo the Lion is super close with the Red Bank Marching Band as well as his cheerleaders. You’ll see him marching to the stadium with the band and running with the football team onto the field.” Jones believes that the job of being a school mascot is becoming a character that is loved and seen as the face of the school and community. “The job allows you to be a representation of your school’s spirit, as well as be a light to all around you,” he says.

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Coahulla Creek High School Mascot:

COLTS

Coahulla Creek High School opened its doors in 2011, and according to then-principal Phillip Brown, deciding the school mascot was a team effort. Approximately 1,400 students, many of which were zoned to go to the new high school, had a hand in selecting the Colts.

Four years later, the CCHS pep club – aptly named the NEIGHborhood Watch – decided it was time to show off their school spirit with a team mascot. The students, with the help of pep club sponsor Kristen Douglas, designed t-shirts and coordinated a fundraiser in order to purchase a colt mascot for the school. Much like the selecting of the mascot, naming the mascot was also an act of crowdsourcing. “I really wanted the student body’s input on the mascot’s name,” Douglas shares. “I organized a name-the-mascot contest, and as I recall, ‘Bolt the Colt’ won by a landslide.”

Max Wilson, a member of the NEIGHborhood Watch, was the first student to step into the Bolt the Colt costume. “I didn’t have time to do a thorough audition, but I was anxious for Bolt to make his debut,” says Douglas. “Fortunately, Max agreed to do it.” However, a few months later when Bolt’s presence was requested at a soccer game, it was Douglas who wore the costume. “The soccer team really wanted Bolt to show up at one of their matches, but Max wasn’t able to go. I always follow through with my promises, so on that cold February night, Bolt was none other than me!” laughs Douglas.

Wilson was a senior the year he served as Bolt, but being the first-ever school mascot isn’t something he’ll soon forget. According to Wilson, Bolt’s role involves attending sporting events, pep rallies, and other school functions to provide some excitement and joy. “The best part is getting to interact with students, kids, and other fans,” he shares. “It may have been hot and embarrassing at times, but it was very fun to be so celebrated as Bolt – because who doesn’t love a mascot?”

Wilson adds, “Learning how to excite a group of people without using any words is difficult, and the people who do it well are so amazing.”

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Cleveland High School Mascot:

RAIDERS

Cleveland got its first city high school in 1966, but before the school moved into its new building, football coach Lou Underdown named the team. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Underdown chose to bring his college mascot – the Blue Raiders – to Cleveland.

In the following years, a student would dress up as a raider and ride a horse onto the field at Cleveland football games. One such student was Scotty Hannah, who acted as the school mascot in the fall of 1968. However, this tradition was short-lived. 

Several decades later, Cleveland High School acquired a brand-new raider costume; the costume featured a mascot head with a white horseshoe mustache and an oversized blue hat. Given the moniker “Rowdy,” this raider made sporadic appearances at football games in the early 2010s until Andrew Markham asked for the mascot job in the fall of 2013. 

With the help of his father Don Markham – a theater teacher at Cleveland – Andrew worked to fix up the costume and prepare for his new role. “For one thing, I had to learn how to maneuver in the head, which was heavy with the huge hat on top. The costume also had large nostrils – those were my ‘eyes’ – so I had very limited vision, which made greeting small children a rewarding challenge,” laughs Andrew.

At football games, Rowdy went out onto the field with the band and cheerleaders to greet the team as they charged in. “I also learned the choreography for all of the cheerleading and dance team dances, and I would often join in on the fun,” Andrew shares. “But the best part of being the mascot was interacting with the fans.” Another aspect of the job was anonymity. “I tried my hardest to keep my identity a secret from most of my classmates throughout all my years under the mask,” adds Andrew.

When Andrew graduated in 2016, he passed on the role of Rowdy to Emily Rominger, who debuted Rowdy’s new look two years later. “We went with a younger-looking raider when we rebranded in 2018,” says Don. “Emily was the last student in the mascot costume to my knowledge.” 

So, who will be the next Rowdy? Only time will tell!

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South Pittsburg High School Mascot:

PIRATES

South Pittsburgh football and pirates have been synonymous since the 1920s. Daring and bold, the pirate seems to be a fitting mascot for the school, which has racked up six TSSAA state championships over the years – the most recent won in 2021.

The South Pittsburg High School cheerleading squad, under the leadership of Gail Miller, purchased an official pirate mascot costume in the fall of 1986. According to Miller, “We sold everything but ourselves to raise the $200-300 needed to purchase the Pirate. We sold doughnuts, had car washes, and anything else so that our school would have a mascot.” 

Their efforts were rewarded, as they were finally able to acquire the Pirate – which featured a giant head complete with a hat, eyepatch, and scraggly beard. The cheerleaders would take turns wearing the costume at every halftime of the football games, and the Pirate would participate in some of their routines.

Many students have worn the pirate costume since 1986, including Amy Smith, Rachel Ownby Teas, and Jada Byrd. “An eventful story about Amy Smith,” Miller shares, “The costume was so hot, Amy passed out in front of the bleachers. We had to take her to the hospital, and the doctor encouraged all future mascots to eat plenty of potassium-filled foods.”

Ownby Teas, now an assistant principal at Brown Academy in Chattanooga, remembers her time spent as the Pirate fondly. She says, “I served as the Pirate a LONG time ago, in 1988 and 1989. The job was a lot of fun! My favorite part was interacting with the kids who were so excited to meet ‘The Pirate.’ While it was a hot, sweaty job, I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Ka’mya Fenn, a freshman at South Pittsburg, is prepping to be the Pirate this fall, and she strives to fill the shoes of the mascots who have come before her. “I asked our principal, Mrs. Paige Hill, if I could have the job. I’m so excited to hype up the students at football games,” she says. “I really want to represent our school well.”  

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Boyd Buchanan School Mascot:

BUCCANEERS

In the late 1950s, a group of seventh-grade boys, without uniforms, formed Boyd Buchanan School’s first competitive basketball team. In a game against Tennessee Temple, the team realized they didn’t have a mascot and came up with the name “Bucs,” which was short for Paul Buchanan, a school founder and original board member. The official mascot, Captain Buc, followed soon after.

According to Chad Wortman, chief financial officer at Boyd Buchanan, the original Captain Buc wore an eye patch and clinched a dagger in his teeth as he met fans and cheered on the Buccaneers. In fact, the mascot has sported several different looks over the years, from simple costumes to elaborate headpieces. “Today’s captain is a little more friendly, especially for our Lower School students,” Chad shares. A royal blue long coat and feathered hat now makes up Captain Buc’s signature garb.

In addition to football game duties, Captain Buc has historically been a part of the cheer team and made appearances at fundraising events for Boyd Buchanan. Having been around for decades, the mascot has also become a part of several special school traditions. A statue of Captain Buc stands in the entryway of the school’s Sports Fitness Complex and occasionally makes his way to the stadium field for big games. Boyd Buchanan students routinely share a rallying cry of “Hooks Up” as the Buccaneer Marching Band plays from the field and stands.

Teachers, administrators, students, and even one school nurse have dressed up as the Captain over the years. “There isn’t a formal process for auditioning, and the job is open to volunteers from our school community,” adds Chad. Most recently, Chad’s son Will – a 2021 graduate of Boyd Buchanan – put on the Captain Buc costume and fired up fans on Friday nights.

Will had this to say about his turn as Captain Buc: “Being the representative of the school requires the mascot to maintain a high standard of academic and athletic excellence while promoting the history and the character of our school.” For Will, the best part of being Captain Buc was “being on the sidelines during games, cheering on the Bucs, and representing my school.” The Wortmans hope to see Captain Buc return to the sidelines soon.

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