Huge yellow eyes, highlighter orange fur, and an equally bright jersey to match—Clemson’s mascot, “the Tiger,” is hard to miss as he rallies Clemson fans on gameday and silently wreaks havoc on the sidelines. On Monday night, the Tiger will do just that during his fourth appearance at the College Football Playoff National Championship in the last five years (including wins in both 2017 and 2019), a track record that has established him as something of an elder statesman of cheering on the game. For the first time, though, this 2020 match will pit tiger against tiger, as LSU sharpens their claws to take down the reigning champs. Here, the Tiger takes us through how he’s earned his stripes—and how he’s preparing for Monday night.
Age: 66 (“If you’re a history buff,” the Tiger says, “we have a book, Clemson Through the Eyes of The Tiger. It’s our mascot heritage book that gives you all the details about when it first began and personal reflections of former mascots.”)
Height: 6 feet 1 inch
Weight: 260 to 270 pounds
How do you prepare for a big game?
Definitely make sure that I’m in shape, because being a mascot is not for the faint of heart. In terms of preparing, the main things are: Hydrate to be great, do your pushups (because we plan on doing plenty), and then bring the energy. Bring your enthusiasm, and bring the party. You are the life of the party.
You mentioned push-ups—you’re known for doing them every time your team scores. Have you ever wished the boys would just stop scoring?
I have to be honest, yeah. You get over sixty-plus push-ups, or heck even fifty-plus push-ups. You have to understand: This is consecutive push-ups for every score. So whether you score six points, seven points, three points, you don’t just do one set. You do seven and then fourteen and then twenty-one, so by the time you get into the fifties and sixties, you’ve done well over two hundred to three hundred push-ups.
That’s a lot of pushups.
Yes. Inside of a sauna. Let me add that.
Where is the strangest place you have gone as the mascot?
As the Tiger, we do tons of community events, whether that be weddings, birthdays, retirement parties. I’ve worked new hiree events, job application events. I’ve never done a funeral, although I do believe there was one on the schedule, and I’m glad it was cancelled—I don’t know what you would do there.
One story comes to mind: I was doing a wedding in the nation’s capital, and a family rented out one of the Smithsonian museums, the Daughters of the American Revolution one. So I go up to the security guard, and I’m like, “Yeah I’m here to work the wedding. You’re supposed to be secretive.” Kid you not, I’m in a pair of blue jeans, a Clemson shirt, orange shoes, and I have this big bag on my back. Of course, the security guard was suspicious, so I showed him my email saying I was supposed to be there. My name was not listed, other than “the Tiger.” I proceeded to show him what was in the bag, and actually had a gun drawn on me. Good news, the DJ came and saved the day and I was able to make it in alive as the Tiger to do the wedding.
You may have been scared then, but back in 2014, you were named number four on CBS Sports’s list of the top ten scariest mascots in college football. LSU’s feline didn’t make the cut. Thoughts?
Well I will say this: I would rather our mascot look intimidating than like a stuffed animal. You think of a tiger in the wild—it is an animal that you would respect, that you would love to go see, but at the same time you know it’s nothing to play with. You look at the community we’ve built, our Clemson family, and we are definitely welcoming. But as a mascot, I’m glad we’re on the list. We’re here to handle business.
You have a history, as the Tiger, of mimicking referees. Have you ever gotten into trouble for picking on an official?
As a mascot, you can’t talk. Your job is to mimic—not to be disrespectful, but in a playful sense. I believe a ref that I pissed off the most was probably in baseball because, you know, we have free will. We can pretty much walk anywhere. If you get in trouble, I guess the ref has to understand that they’re not talking to a person at the moment, per se. They’re talking to a tiger. Definitely being a distraction, getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, being on the opponent’s side [can get you in trouble]. But it’s all good, it’s fun and games.
Who is your favorite tiger (other than yourself)? There are quite a few other tiger mascots.
The only ones I’ve met have been Auburn’s and LSU’s, and between the two I would say they are about equal. The thing about mascots is, we’re kind of all in the same situation. As a mascot your biggest job is to survive, not have a heat stroke, and do your job of hyping up the crowd and having fun. Mascot are like a family…I think that we’re all friends.
Do you have a message for the tiger on the other sideline?
How do you celebrate after a big win?
After a big win you eat the biggest pizza you can find, and/or you go to a buffet. Okay, let’s start with the first thing you do. You take a shower because you’re going to smell really bad. Then you go find that pizza, and you go and celebrate with your Clemson family.
So you’re hitting the town after the championship game. No cat naps?
Well, I’ve got about a fourteen hour bus ride back, so you better believe there will be a cat nap on the bus.
To end, let’s back it up a minute: If you guys take home the trophy, what’s going to be your first reaction when that buzzer hits zero?
[Exhales.] Thank God.
Want more Tiger coverage? Get to know LSU’s Mike the Tiger here. Or, take a dive into the classic gameday bars in each school’s home town: Read up on the Chimes in Baton Rouge here, and read up on the Esso Club in Clemson here.