The man, the myth, the mascot…Trailblazer Willie

Noel Lee, staff photographer

Putting on a compression shirt and shorts, socks and a pair of brown boots, pants and shirt then topping it with a 15 to 20 pound mascot head, without an ice pack or other cool relief, and finally wrapping it all up with a blue scarf and a pair of yellow gloves. Altogether the seven pieces of the outfit make up the Trailblazer mascot and Willie is ready to leave the dance room, pass through the hallway and head to the bustling basketball court to welcome the audience and cheer on the team.

Willie’s face is always donned with a warm smile, and the man inside the mascot head is actually smiling, too.

Chris Jones, broadcasting,

Plainfield, is the face behind the mask of Trailblazer Willie.

He told the Trailblazer, “I am doing whatever Willie is doing, I try to act it on the inside. So, he is smiling all the time and I am usually smiling.”

Jones has been a mascot for seven years. He started in high school after he got injured playing sports. He used to be the mascot at the University Southern Indiana and won a trophy in the Midwest Mascot competition during high school. Apart from working as school mascots, he has also been the Buffalo Wild Wings mascot, the Chick-fil-A cow, as well as a few others.

Having performed as several mascots, he tries to give every mascot its own personality. Jones said Willie has his own unique way of walking. He makes sure that Willie’s knee is up and his head and his chin are always pointing out.

When he walks along the court, he waves a lot and dances a little bit to cheer up the crowd.

His main job is to keep the crowd entertained even if the team is losing.

But when the basketball players shoot a three-pointer, he likes to do a little dance as support.

Jones grinned as he admitted that he tries to mess with other team, too. When the away team players are at the free throw line, Jones will insistently stand under the basket and try to confuse them. He also tries to confuse the other team by pointing at them and playing fun with other team’s coaches.

Jones said he enjoys being the mascot and gave insight into what he does to get ready to go from Chris to Willie.

“I don’t really act like me. I really act like [who] Willie should be,” Jones said. “If you try to act with a blank face, if you try to be a mascot with no emotion behind [it], you are not doing a really good job, I don’t think. As a mascot, you need to have your head [in] whatever is going on,” he added.

Apart from learning how to act lively on the court, Jones did a lot of preparation to be a better Willie off the stage.

Being a big fan of sports and previously a referee, he is knowledgeable in the rules of basketball, baseball, football and other sports, which helps put him into the cheering spirit.

Jones also spoke of the physical toll it takes to be a mascot. He mentioned that the hard thing was getting hot and sweating a lot as the time goes by. He might begin to feel heavier and start getting thirsty.

“[It gets] really sour and tired after the game,” he expressed.

To stay in decent shape, he goes to the gym three to five times a week so that he is able to move around in his costume. Before and after the games he makes sure he stays hydrated and stretches enough.

“[I] make sure my muscles aren’t tight, just like any other athletes. It’s not a sport, being a mascot, but I would say that it is definitely an athletic activity,” Jones explained.

Jones shared that he nearly passed out once before and took a game off because of not being well hydrated. However, he did not feel that was an adequate excuse and felt bad that he had not been prepared enough.

“At that time, I [felt] bad. I thought he should be out there and cheering on [the team],” Jones continued. “And when I get sick and can’t be out there, I definitely get upset. I like to be the mascot everytime. So even if I am sick, I go anyway. I try to fight through it and get out there, still cheer, everything.”

In order to keep himself pumped up for his role,  Jones says the key is to have fun and stay up to date with the games, but the most effort is on the inside.

“I am out there for the entire game. If the players can play, I can do it, too,” Jones said.