Knightro turns 21: a history of UCF mascots
Along with his identity, many students may not have known an important detail about their school's mascot, Knightro: his age. On Wednesday, the beloved mascot will ring in his 21st birthday, and UCF will join in on festivities all week.
To celebrate, the Central Florida Future compiled a brief rundown of UCF's mascot history:
Vincent the Vulture
Inspired by a number of vultures that were commonly seen circling campus back in the day, Vincent the Vulture was an unofficial mascot up for contention in the late 1960s, when UCF was still known as Florida Technological University.
Notably, one vulture was particularly friendly, having been fed by students for so long. When the vulture was found dead on campus, instead of being disposed of, it was taxidermied and held in the President's Office until it was moved to the University Archives at an unknown time.
The mascot suggestion resembled a fat penguin and apparently had UCF's first president, Charles Millican, in stitches.
"I thought President Millican was going to die," professor Christian Clausen said in a previous interview. "President Millican had a good sense of humor, but that almost sent him overboard."
In 1969, another unofficial mascot popped up out of the woodwork — a fellow who has recently come out of retirement, the Citronaut. Poised with a laser gun, space helmet and the body of an orange, the Citronaut has become a legend of sorts since its debut on the student handbook. Beloved by some and despised by others, the Citronaut never became an official mascot and no official costume was ever made.
The Central FloridaFuture, known then as the FuTUre, even covered the plight of the Citronaut in a 1970 article, "Are we doomed to be the Citronauts forever?" However, in 2012, another column ran titled "Patiently waiting, Citronaut shall rise, return to glory." Today, the men's baseball team dons Citronaut uniforms during its season.
The lost years
In 1969, a new mascot was up for proposal. Some of the proposed mascots included a scorpion, a mosquito and even a fruit fly.
Knights before Knightro
After second President Trevor Colbourn changed the university's name from FTU to University of Central Florida, he decided another change was needed — a mascot change. FTU had garnered the nickname "knights" and the students were all about it. Before Knightro, another knight-themed mascot, Knights of Pegasus, was introduced in December 1970.
It was also in the 70s that the knight mascot really came into play as the basketball squad reached varsity level and became a NCAA Division II team.
With an emerging football team led by then head coach Don Jonas, a new face had also appeared: Sir Wins-A-Lot, who was knighted by Colbourn himself. There was even a dragon named Puff that served as the slaying target of the mascot. By the end of the 90s, however, Sir Wins-A-Lot became more of an authentic Knight on a horse, which we still see before kickoff at football games today.
Knightro officially came on the scene at the 1994 Spirit Splash, though he did not receive his name until 1995. By 1999, Knightro was already in his second generation. It is unknown the exact date of each generational transition, but the Knightro known today is the fourth generation, said Mike Callahan of the UCF Spirit Team in a previous interview.
Created in 1994 through a committee that involved alumni, the athletics program and the Student Government Association, the first Knightro was played by Trey Gordon, a driving force behind his creation. 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. Although his suit used to weigh a good 50 pounds in the early 2000s, it got a makeover when Bright House Networks Stadium opened in 2007, reducing it to about 25 pounds.
In August, the Future learned that another man was behind the mascot: Ed Knight Jr., known as "Sir Knight" by students. Ed, who died Aug. 16 at the age of 93, was instrumental in helping students maintain their deferments, and in turn, keeping them out of Vietnam during his 20-year career as UCF’s director of records and registration.
“The student body ended up voting for ‘the Knights,’ and not everyone knew why, but it was because of Ed Knight and what he did for us," said John Voelpel, a UCF and Kappa Sigma alumnus. In fact, the entire fraternity backed the idea.
Today, Knightro is played by eight different students through Team Knightro. Tryouts are held to fill spots when they become vacant, and students' identities are kept secret. With sword and shield in hand, the mascot can be spotted all over campus, but he's best known for his appearances at football games and Homecoming events. For Spirit Splash he always dons a pair of swim trunks, and of course a tux for the Homecoming crownings.
Caroline Glenn, Daniela Marin, Adam Rhodes, Jessica Saggio and Paige Wilson contributed to this report.