With the Texas Longhorns facing off against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl tomorrow for the 108th time in the infamous “Red River Rivalry” game, Retro Brand thought it would be an appropriate time to have a quick chat with someone who’ll have a profound impact on the game; Hook ‘Em – one of the official mascots for the University of Texas. We actually spoke with the man inside the suit to get a little perspective on what one experiences in the coveted role.
Andy/Retro Brand: When you arrived in Austin for your Freshman year, did you have any previous thoughts of wanting to become Hook ‘Em, or was it more of a spontaneous decision?
Hook ‘Em: It was more of a spontaneous decision. I had actually thought about trying out to be the mascot in high school, but never ended up following through. At UT I went to a lot of basketball games and noticed the mascot running around, dancing, interacting with people and having a blast at the game. It seemed like so much fun so I looked into it further, ended up trying out that spring and making it! The rest is history.
Andy/Retro Brand: Awesome. Tell us how the history began… I imagine competition for the position was high. Is this a correct assumption and could you give me a few specifics on what the audition process was like and what was the most difficult part?
Hook ‘Em: Competition to be Hook ‘Em varies from year to year, but it definitely is a sought after role. The audition process is quite a handful. I remember not knowing what exactly to expect. The audition began with an interview that asked a variety of questions, some serious, some more playful. After that the meat of the audition began. I was asked to put on the mascot suit and to demonstrate my enthusiasm without being able to talk! This came in the form of dancing, body language and some improvised skits. I remember thinking that I was flying by the seat of my pants and hoping that everything I did made Hook ‘Em look as excited as I actually was!
Andy/Retro Brand: Apparently you convinced the judges! Can you give an example or two of your most memorable experiences to date as one of the Texas Longhorns official mascots?
Hook ‘Em: Every time you put on the suit is a memorable experience. We get amazing opportunities to do really cool appearances at a variety of events, from graduation, to birthday parties, to pep rallies, to community service events and more! My absolute most memorable experience though? That’s easy. I got the opportunity to be the mascot at the Texas vs. Oklahoma State football game last season. It was an away game, so we were in the Oklahoma State stadium, but one of the coolest things was that UT legend Kevin Durant was there! We got to take a picture with him and it was great. Then, in the middle of the second quarter, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said “Kevin wants you to catch the ball.” I turned and saw Kevin Durant standing about 20 yards down the sideline with a football. Before I knew it he threw the ball at me. I had a minor panic attack, but I caught it! Then KD put his hands up for me to throw it back. Before I even thought about how hard that might be with oversized, slippery gloves and a suit that limits your movement, I threw it back to him. Only my throw wasn’t as good as his. The ball went about half the distance it was supposed to, bounced, and rolled a couple of feet onto the field. What’s worse? The teams were already at the line of scrimmage. Kevin Durant quickly ran onto the field and grabbed the ball before anything happened. I was SO embarrassed. But at the same time, I played catch with a University of Texas hero! I’ll never forget that moment (and all the people laughing at me in the stands).
Andy/Retro Brand: Add me to the list of those laughing… Not really, that IS AWESOME! Get pretty hot in that oversized, slippery gloved suit down south I imagine? I’ve always wondered about the upkeep of the suit and how much it weighs, comfort, etc. Can you give some suit specs for us? Also, do folks like to pull on your horns more than you would like?
Hook ‘Em: Absolutely. The suits can get incredibly hot, upwards of 120 degrees during football season. If you want to get specific, we have 4 suits and two styles of suits, two of each style. One is more high-tech, and is made with mesh lining and is a more fitted design. This gives us much more freedom of movement and makes us more dynamic, but unfortunately this suit is noticeably hotter and is a little harder to see out of. Our other suits are a looser fit, making them breezier, but they’re much less advanced in their construction, making them much heavier. In terms of upkeep, both suits are washed after every single time they’re worn. They’re machine washed on a delicate setting and hung to dry. Funny that you ask about the horns. The number one thing that Hook ‘Em gets frustrated with is when people pull on his horns. The horns are really delicate and have broken in the past, so it’s extremely important that people don’t touch them. It’s usually not too big of an issue because Hook ‘Em is so tall, but it does happen every so often.
Andy/Retro Brand: I actually had a few mascot gigs back in the day and when I was the Nestle Quick Bunny, folks grabbed at my floppy ears and little cottontail and I wondered if we had that experience in common. We do. Being a mascot for one of the most storied Football programs in history isn’t just fun and games and comes with some huge responsibilities. Can you tell us about your sense of pride and commitment to putting your best hoofs forward?
Hook ‘Em: As a mascot for The University of Texas, you’re constantly representing one of the best institutions in the country, so giving your best is the only option. Hook ‘Em is a tangible representative of The University of Texas, just in a more fun, excited form than you would expect. From football, to volleyball, basketball, soccer, baseball and more, Hook ‘Em is the absolute number one fan of all things UT. Burnt orange pride runs in his veins! To say Hook ‘Em is proud to be a longhorn just scratches the surface. Bring on those Sooners!
Andy/Retro Brand: I’ll definitely be watching for you on the sidelines tomorrow and be sure to leave the passing to the guys on the field! Thanks for the great interview and good luck against OU!!