|Kelty in the running for Capital One Mascot of the Year|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Aug. 8, 2005 - WACO - Zach Kelty doesn't normally pass up an opportunity to talk, but when it comes to describing what it's like being an increasingly hot commodity among college mascots, he sums it up in five words.
"It's just a wild ride."
It looks like the ride is nowhere near over.
Kelty, a junior at Baylor University, has gone from the humble beginnings as mascot at Sulphur Springs High School to being the man in Baylor's Bruiser the bear outfit, to now being in the running for the Capital One Mascot of the Year which includes national commercials and promos.
Last month, Kelty went to Vancouver, Canada, to film commercials that are being aired on ESPN for the Capital One Mascot Challenge, and next week he and his 11 fellow mascots will be in the Wheel of Fortune studio to film promos for the game show's College Week in October.
"We get to be on the set on Wheel of Fortune," Kelty said. "I like playing Wheel of Fortune, so it should be a blast to get to see what goes on behind the scenes."
By being selected for the Mascot Challenge, Baylor's mascot program will receive $5,000. If he is selected as Mascot of the Year through internet voting and text messaging, Baylor will receive an additional $5,000.
As Bruiser the big bear mascot, Kelty has been named to the fourth annual Capital One All-America Mascot Team, made up of 12 lovable, hard-working and oddly-proportioned characters deemed the best of the beasts.
This year’s fuzzy crew was chosen from Division IA and IAA athletic programs with college football teams. They made the squad after being ranked on mascot musts such as interaction with fans, originality and pedigree. The panel of judges included mascot guru and historian, Dr. Roy Yarbrough, and representatives from ESPN and Capital One.
The first week, Bruiser is matched up against Aubie from Auburn. As of Wednesday, more than 70,000 votes had been cast and only 40 votes separated the pair. (See the sidebar for voting information.)
The mascot uniform was a perfect fit for Kelty since he first became mascot for SSHS as a junior in high school, and has literally set the standard for others with his outgoing personality and interaction with fans.
"My love of sports combined with my love for performing allows me to be able to support our teams. I was never the best athlete, but I love sports and I love performing," He said. "I like being the face of the university.
"It may sound like a cliche, but I love performing for the kids. Little kids get drug to games by the parents, and they need an outlet from the game, and I can give them that. It's a rush to be able to keep the fans energized and having free reign to entertain people."
Baylor has promoted Bruiser as one of its many extracurricular accomplishments.
�We at Baylor University are thrilled to be a part of this dynamic nationwide event that promotes school spirit,� said E.J. Williams, Baylor�s spirit coordinator. �We have much to be proud of at Baylor. Bruiser is the picture of school spirit and Baylor Bear pride at our university.��
Kelty is one of four Bruisers at the university, and was selected to participate in the Mascot Challenge because of his pedigree and because, well, he's the best. A high school mascot national champion, he is also the captain of the Baylor mascot team, and has written a curriculum for the National Cheerleading Association.
"Since I came on board three years ago, we now have an official try-out process and pick the best people we can," he explained. "We do work as a team."
He has been working for NCA for three years and is now the head college mascot instructor for NCA and spends half of the summer working at camps.
"I have put together the curriculum for NCA mascots, so that if a mascot goes to an NCA camp, they are either getting instructed by me or using the curriculum I put together," Kelty explained.
It was also through NCA that television's Animal Planet contact him about help with a special feature entitled, "Mascot Mania."
"It's really exciting if we can get that done by next summer," he said.
If that happens, he will likely go to Florida. Being a mascot has already taken him from coast-to-coast, including being in Seattle when the Baylor women's basketball team won the national championship in March.
"I've traveled to a lot of places he would never have gotten the opportunity if not for mascotting," he said. "It's opened so many doors. I have no idea where I would be right now if it weren't for mascotting."
Kelty even has an eye out for opportunities after college.
"Professional mascotting is an opportunity I might actually have in the next two years. It's a weird thing to even say that - it's not something you aspire to be when you're a kid: a professional mascot. It's weird, but it's one of my passions," he said.
"When I tried out as a junior in high school, I had no idea where it would take me. My whole life I've been a performer, and being a mascot is an extension of that. I'm a theater arts major, so whether or not I'm a mascot, I'm going to continue performing."