29 2 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

He's at the games, he's at Spirit Splash, he's at all the biggest campus events. With a huge head and golden armor, he's not that hard to miss in a crowd. He could even sit next to you in class, but you wouldn't ever know it.

For the men and women behind the mask, their identities are kept secret.

UCF's ever-present mascot, Knightro, was created in 1994 through a committee that involved alumni, the athletics program and SGA.

Trey Gordon, the first Knightro, was an integral part of that committee and was a driving force behind the creation of the Knightro image we know today. While two parties were juggling changing the mascot to a shark or to a Barney-like dragon, Gordon said he reached out to a graphic design studio for a rendering that ended up becoming the main Knightro image.

"It was a dream," Gordon said on his role in creating Knightro. "I went to UCF because I wanted to be part of a school that was growing. We just needed to create an identity."

But what about the Knightro we know today?

It's actually not just one person, said Linda Gooch, head coach for the spirit program and cheer team. Team Knightro, those who put on the costume and represent Knightro, is made up of eight students all working together to make sure Knightro is out and about as much as possible on and off campus.

Photos: Knight fans at UCF vs. Temple

Every year, Team Knightro's journey begins anew in April with tryouts over one weekend. That Friday, there is an informational meeting and that Saturday, the mascot coach, Mike Callahan — who was a Knightro himself when we was an undergrad — puts the potential Knightros through their paces.

They start with learning how to put on the costume, then they go into role-play scenarios wearing the boots and helmet and they finish up with a skit that students have a chance to plan out. After that skit, Callahan makes his decisions.

You might think being Knightro takes the most outgoing and extroverted students, but you'd be wrong, Gooch said.

"A lot of times, out of costume, these are people that are quiet and … introverted, but you put that head on them [and] they are the coolest guy on campus," Gooch said.

But despite that, there are still some qualities a potential Knightro has to have, Gooch said, and those are dependability, teamwork and organization.

But it's not all up to the various Knightros. Gooch sits down with Team Knightro once per week to plan out their schedule and divide the work among the current eight.

"We're very organized as a unit and that makes it possible for someone who is also organized and on top of things to participate," Gooch said.

Involved students are more than welcome to join the team, Gooch said, as long as they stay organized. Academically, they are also required to be in good standing with the university.

One student right now works another job, while another is active in his fraternity and another is an honors student also working another job, Gooch said, but that doesn't prevent them from doing their duties as Knightro.

Over the course of a year, aside from university-sponsored sporting events, Knightro will appear at more than 150 nonathletic events, which can be anything from a book fair at a local elementary school to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to a wedding.

But there are more mental requirements as well.

"I'm looking for someone that can quickly think on their feet, someone that is a team player," Callahan, a member of Team Knightro from 2002 to 2004, said. "[We're] looking for someone who is school spirited and who is willing to work as hard as I did when I was in the costume."

Callahan got involved with Knightro during his junior and senior year of college, and after graduating and getting a job at the Burnett Honors College, he was asked to be the mascot coach for the new teams.

"I saw Knightro at the games and it looked like a fun opportunity to get involved in," Callahan said on his decision to join Team Knightro. "I'm a very school-spirited person, and it was a perfect opportunity for me to get involved with campus and the extracurricular scene and do something that not everyone got to do."

And there are also some other perks to the job, Callahan said.

"You are everyone's best friend," Callahan said. "You are the person everyone looks up to. You can walk up to a complete stranger and they've never seen Knightro, but they know of Knightro, and they look at you like a god."

Mentoring new Knightros, Callahan said, is the best part of his coaching position, though he still remembers his time behind the mark.

"As Knightro, that instant celebrity status is something that lives with you forever," Callahan said. "Nobody knew Michael Callahan; all 60,000 people knew Knightro."

29 2 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE