Editor's note: Welcome to the third installment of "Mascot Memoirs," in which NCAA mascots from around the country relive their fondest memories from behind the mask. Previously, we checked in with Michigan State’s Sparty and Notre Dame's leprechaun.
Here’s a secret you may not know about Buzz, Georgia Tech’s yellow jacket mascot: He’s actually played by multiple students, one per quarter during a typical football game.
Here’s another secret: those students’ identities. So the only facts we can reveal about one Buzz we spoke to is that he’s a fifth-year biology major, premed, and this is his second year donning the wings and stinger.
Why is a full colony of yellow jackets necessary?
“He’s super-curious, super-hyper and crazy unpredictable,” Buzz says. "You have to do full sprints, jump up walls and run through people. It gets very tiring -- and it’s very, very hot in Atlanta.”
As the Buzzes prepare to invade El Paso, Texas, for the Sun Bowl versus USC on New Year's Eve, our Buzz correspondent relived some of his most memorable moments:
• Date: Sept. 10, 2011
• Where: Murfreesboro, Tenn.
• Event: Georgia Tech football beats Middle Tennessee State 49-21
Buzz says: “It was my first away game. Usually when we score, I run the flag through the end zone and the cheerleaders come after me and run tumbling passes. Instead of turning around and going outside the end zone, I just turned 180 degrees and ran directly back. I forgot the cheerleaders were doing tumbling passes. One was doing a round-off back handspring and going up for a back tuck. As she was coming for her back tuck, I ran full speed into her with the giant GT flag and pretty much caused her to face-plant into the end zone. All I remember was, I thought, ‘Oh God, I killed a cheerleader.’ It was bad.
“I asked the coach later and she said, ‘She’s OK, she’s a little hurt, but don’t do that again.’ That’s an inside joke that we keep bringing up … that we should do that to a cheerleading freshman, just run into them with a flag.”
• Date: Oct. 29, 2011
• Where: Atlanta
• Event: Georgia Tech football upsets fifth-ranked Clemson 31-17
Buzz says: “I had first quarter of that game. It was electric. Nighttime at Bobby Dodd Stadium -- it was crazy, super-loud, everybody is jazzed up. People were throwing me up, [I was] crowd surfing ... it was so incredibly loud.
"You’re standing on a wall and you’re waving your arms and pumping everyone up and you’re getting energized. I was able to contribute to making it super-loud and it helped the football players feed off of that. Even though we didn’t end the season as well as expected, playing a role in that upset was incredible. We stormed the field, and my teammate in the fourth quarter was crowd surfing for a good 30 minutes. No one would let him down.”
• Date: Spring 2012
• Where: Georgia
• Event: Buzz and friends visit an ill fan.
Buzz says: “Earlier this year, there was a man named Mr. Marshall. He asked for Buzz at his 95th birthday party, but before the party he had a heart attack. He was hooked up to oxygen at his house and had his caretakers around. When we found out about it, we sent myself with a cheerleader and a whole bunch of GT goodies.
"We visited him in his house. He looked very ill. When he saw me and the cheerleader, he started smiling and crying. Just for me to be able to be there for 10 minutes and make him smile and cry from joy, that was one of my most meaningful moments. It shows you as a mascot what you can do. It was very humbling.”
• Date: Oct. 21, 2012
• Where: Atlanta
• Event: RamblinWreckTube, the GT Athletic Association’s YouTube channel, posts a “Gangnam Style” parody video starring cheerleaders and athletes like GT offensive lineman J.C. Lanier.
Buzz says: “We wanted to increase school spirit; it’s been a tough year for us. We filmed it on two days and put it together. It’s up to over 30,000 views. Especially for Tech being a small school, I heard buzz around campus that it was popular on Facebook.
"When someone says, 'You see the "Gangnam Style" video? It’s awesome!' I’m like two rows behind them eating lunch and laughing to myself, saying they have no idea that’s me. I guess that’s one of the benefits of being a secret mascot.”
• Date: Oct. 27, 2012
• Where: Atlanta, Ga.
• Event: BYU defeats Georgia Tech football 41-17
Buzz says: “I’m in the student section, pumping them up. I think we scored a touchdown -- I ran to the corner and do pushups on something called a Buzz board. When I jumped over the wall, I thought I probably just hit one of the stages for the band and ran to my corner.
"[Later] my boss asked me, ‘Do you know what you did?’ I landed on a photographer and broke his $8,000 camera.
"My first reaction was, ‘Oh geez, not me. Why me?’ He was upset. Luckily for me, I didn’t get in trouble. They had to sign paperwork for liability for being on the field. I felt really bad.”