I’ve long been on record as saying that West Virginia’s Mountaineer is the best mascot in collegiate sports. I wrote about Jonathan Kimble, WVU’s mascot last season and this season, for a column last November. You can read that here.
Jonathan gave The Oklahoman crew a tour of Morgantown last year, and to reciprocate, I called him last week. He said he’d love to tour the OU campus, since when you ride team buses, you don’t get to see much. So Saturday morning, I picked up Jonathan at the Embassy Suites and we headed for campus.
It was a memorable morning. Jonathan was curious about all the nuances of campus. Dorms, classrooms, landmarks. He liked it all.
Jonathan wanted to see Barry Switzer’s house, having met Switzer last year in Morgantown. So we drove by Switzer’s house, and there was Switzer, standing in his doorway, handing over his dogs to a dog-walker. We pulled into Switzer’s circle drive, I rolled down Jonathan’s window and Switzer yelled, “Hey, the Mountaineer!”
So Switzer came over and chatted for 10 minutes or so. Then he posed for a picture with Jonathan.
As we drove along Imhoff Road, between Lloyd Noble Center and Mitchell Park, we spotted a van with West Virginia memorabilia. So I pulled alongside, Jonathan waved and the ladies in the front seat went nuts when they recognized the Mountaineer. They asked if Jonathan could follow them to the RV park set up in the Lloyd Noble Center lot, so we did. There were probably 8-10 RVs of West Virginia congregated, and Jonathan went from one to the other, posing for pictures and hearing about their trip.
That’s what makes the Mountaineer the best mascot in sport. He’s a real person. He can interact with fans. He can talk to them and listen to them. There’s a connection that’s not possible with an animal or someone inside a costume with a big head. Jonathan is a natural, of course, a guy with a big smile and a great personality. He’s worth $100,000 a year to West Virginia just in goodwill PR.
Eventually, I took Jonathan back to his hotel, where he scooted up and got me a Mountaineer Maniac T-shirt and a handful of deer jerky, which I was glad to consume on the drive home.
Later, I rendezvoused with Jonathan at the stadium — he had left his wallet in my truck and was completely relieved when I found it. Jonathan was a hit two hours before the game, conducting interviews and chatting with early-arriving fans.
At almost 10 p.m., 15 minutes or so after the game, I made my way to the interview room, and I walked up the southwest ramp. There on the concourse, amid hundreds of fans, were OU supporters lined up to get their picture made with The Mountaineer. He’d had a long day. But a good day. Still producing positive thoughts about West Virginia.