Posts filed under ‘Nittany Lion mascot’

Behind the Scenes at the Nittany Lion Photo Shoot

lion shootWe weren’t exactly sure what to expect when we scheduled a photo shoot with the Nittany Lion for our Nov./Dec. cover. Would he show up at Hintz Family Alumni Center dressed in his fur? Would he have an entourage? The fall is his busiest time of year—how long would he actually be able to stay? Photographer Bill Cardoni arrived early that October morning to set up the backdrop and test the lighting. Shortly after, the student arrived in his street clothes with a bag over his shoulders; he said hello, shook hands, and carried in a few extra props that we still needed for the story. We thought that he was making an extra trip out to his car, but then he… disappeared. I glanced at my phone and saw this text message from him: “I’m almost done getting dressed. Any last minute things you need to communicate before I can’t talk?”

Photograph by CARDONI

Photograph by CARDONI

Well, didn’t see that one coming. I replied, “I think we’re good. We’ll direct you in the shoot.” And, about five minutes after sending that text, the Lion came bouncing into the conference room. He clapped his hands, as if he were arriving at Beaver Stadium, and even passed out Penn State buttons to us. The “student” with whom I had been working on the story was nowhere to be seen, but the Lion had arrived.

Later in the shoot, the photographer asked the Lion to jump. The Lion nodded OK, gave a quick glance over his shoulder, and didn’t just “jump,” but totally stuck a backflip. When we asked him to hold the cowbell for a picture, he couldn’t help but bang on it and look toward us to deliver the “P-S-U” chant. And when he put on the “Thriller” jacket, he danced as if he was in front of 94,000 fans.

Suffice it to say, it was a pretty fun photo shoot. And when it was time to go, the Lion grabbed his things, motioned to all of us goodbye—a pat on the back, a kiss on the hand, a big wave from his furry paw—and he was gone.

Amy Downey, senior editor

November 13, 2015 at 10:46 am 1 comment

The Nittany Lion’s Extra Props

In our latest cover story [“Props to the Lion,” p. 40] we pored over two-dozen props and accessories of the Penn State mascot. There were a few more items that we couldn’t quite fit into the feature, and because their stories are simply way too fun to leave out, here they are.

Arguably the biggest prop of the, well, lion’s share is the Michigan State Spartan chariot. Michael Valania ’15 and his roommate built it by collecting pallet boards from loading docks around campus. Because of its size, it’s parked in the cheerleading locker room at Beaver Stadium.

The Lions have also been known to wear special gear for wet weather. “I remember being upset during rainy games because it made it so much harder to move around,” says James Sheep ’08. “A wet lion suit adds like 25-30 pounds—it feels super heavy. After the game, I’d take off the suit and wring all of the water out of it.” Sheep did have a little fun with the forecast at one game, stepping out on the field in a ducky inner tube and an umbrella hat—the latter of which the current Lion wore in this year’s rainy game against the University of Buffalo.


Photo by Nick Sloff ’92

Sometimes, ribbons are pinned onto the mascot to support a cause, like a gold one during the annual football game that supports THON, pink at various sporting events during breast cancer awareness month, and blue for the blue-outs at Beaver Stadium in the fight against child abuse.

But perhaps the biggest treasure that’s passed down to the new Nittany Lion is some heeded advice. Says Rob Nellis ’13: “Enjoy it. Because when you’re serious about it, you can get caught up in the stress of things. And the more you actually enjoy it, the better reaction from the crowd.”

In digging through the stash of props, we did come across three items that we still don’t know the stories behind: Some slack of rope, a blue Hawaiian shirt, and this somewhat scary Brutus Buckeye mask, which is actually made from the skin of an old soccer ball. Any ideas?

Amy Downey, senior editor 

October 26, 2015 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

Inside Our November/December 2015 Issue

coverAlumni Association members should be getting our Nov./Dec. issue any day now. You’ll see that we take a peek inside the Nittany Lion’s closet and uncover some pretty fun props and accessories that have been passed down over the years. From a pink-and-black scarf reserved for Homecoming to a homemade Michael Jackson “Thriller” jacket worn around Halloween, we got exclusive access to the stash of props, along with the stories behind them. Learn about the two-dozen items starting on p. 40.

The magazine also includes a rare look aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt where 15 Penn Staters, including two captains and one commodore, spent six months in the Persian Gulf.

Senior editor Ryan Jones embarks on a month-long culinary quest across University Park in “A Moveable Feast” and digs into what it’s really like to eat on campus these days. You’ll be surprised to learn about the quantity—and quality—of options available. (Honey-glazed parsnips, anyone?) Don’t miss Aaron Meshon’s fun illustration of campus eateries on p. 28.

You’ll also find a Q&A with Blue Band director Greg Drane ’06, who recently wrapped up five straight home football games; a story about Penn State Altoona’s new basketball coach (and former Minnesota Timberwolves forward) Doug West; and a conversation with renowned author Joan Chittister ’71 about her latest books.

Let us know what you think of the Nov./Dec. issue by commenting below or emailing us at

Amy Downey, senior editor

October 26, 2015 at 11:16 am 5 comments

The Penn Stater Daily — Dec. 17, 2013

Cool cats: Hey, it’s snowing in State College today. It’s been doing a lot of that lately. On Saturday (when it was also snowing), our friend Bill Zimmerman from the Public Information office in Old Main got this terrific shot of a couple of Lions frolicking in the white stuff. If you haven’t already seen it, enjoy.

Lions in Snow

Honored, again: QB Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman have been named True Freshman All-Americans by 247 Sports, the latest postseason honors bestowed on members of the Nittany Lion football team. If you’re scoring at home, the list from just the past few days includes all-Big Ten honors for eight players from ESPN and BTN; first-team All-America notice from CBS Sports and the Sporting News for junior receiver Allen Robinson; and team MVP honors for senior defensive tackle DaQuan Jones.

Dog, gone: Readers of a certain age will remember Nipper, the attentive dog whose iconic image became the symbol for record-player manufacturer RCA Victor. For more than half a century, a stained glass version of Nipper—four of him, actually—overlooked the city of Camden, N.J., from his perch atop the RCA Victor factory. Those windows came down more than 40 years ago, and somehow one of them ended up at Penn State. Today, the Daily Journal has the story of how the window we’d kept in storage on campus recently returned home to South Jersey. It’s a fun story, not least because the historian charged with the window’s safekeeping is named Pane.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

December 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Nov. 14, 2013

Tale of two Penn States: As the search for a new president continues, Inside Higher Ed published this piece, examining how Penn State might appear to a potential leader: “… candidates may be asking themselves which Penn State they see: one led in part by ‘the search committee that couldn’t shoot straight,’ or a solid academic and financial entity with a long history and a bright future.” Donald Heller, the former head of Penn State’s Center for the Study of Higher Education, and an anonymous Penn State faculty member are quoted in the story.

Spanier v. Freeh: Attorneys for Louis Freeh and former Penn State president Graham Spanier are headed to court early next year. Back in July 2013, Spanier filed a defamation lawsuit in response to the Freeh report, which alleged Spanier helped cover up Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of children. The argument goes to trial in the Centre County Courthouse on Jan. 9, 2014.

Master Key: Keegan-Michael Key, of Comedy Central’s hit show Key & Peele, is pretty much my best friend. And by “best friend,” I mean I interviewed him once. We chatted on the phone earlier this week (for an upcoming story in the magazine — stay tuned) and Key ’96g was not only hysterically funny, but also incredibly nice and easygoing—which helped calm my out-of-control, omg-I’m-talking-to-a-comedy-genius nerves. BFF status aside, this is good news: A Key & Peele movie, produced by comedy heavyweight Judd Apatow, is in the works. Now I’m just waiting on my invite to the premiere.

Via @rysChen on Twitter

Via @rysChen on Twitter

Think positive: So, last night’s men’s basketball game vs. Bucknell didn’t go so well. But let’s look on the bright side. More specifically, let’s look at this adorable photo of a miniature lion high-fiving the real deal, captured during the game by Onward State‘s Bobby Chen (@rysChen) and posted on Twitter this morning.

Mary Murphy, associate editor

November 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm Leave a comment

The Lion Mascot Laces Up His Skates

With the Nittany Lions opening their first Division 1 hockey season in the brand-new Pegula Ice Arena tonight, a thought occurred to us: Can the lion mascot skate?

So we put in a call to Curtis White, adviser to the Nittany Lion mascot and the cheerleaders, and asked him a few questions about what they’ll be doing at hockey games. Here’s what we learned.

Will the lion and cheerleaders be involved in ice hockey games at Pegula?

They’ll be there tonight. In terms of “stunting,” it’s not like a football game, so we can only do minor things. But, for example, we’re hoping to have the lion and a couple of cheerleaders run out onto the ice carrying the big “We Are Penn State” flags at the beginning of the game.


The Nittany Lion was on hand for the first-ever game at the former ice pavilion in 1981. Photo by Scott Johnson.

When you say “run out,” you actually mean “skate out,” right?

Right. They’ll be on skates.

Can the lion ice skate?

He can skate. He already had some skating ability, but he also took some ice skating lessons this summer near his home in Delaware, and he’s been working with someone up here that the ice hockey folks suggested.

Was skating part of tryouts for mascot candidates in the past?

No, not at all.

Will it be in the future?

Yes, that what we’re looking at doing. I don’t want to eliminate someone based on skating ability, but if they can skate, it’ll be a plus.

There aren’t many stoppages of play in ice hockey, just the intermissions. What can the lion and cheerleaders do at a hockey game?

This first game, we’re just going to feel it out. I contacted other schools that use cheerleaders at hockey games, and they gave us suggestions. The band will be there too, and we’ll feed off that. The lion might go out on the ice at some point and skate around a bit, but no skits yet. We’ll see how things go at the first game, and then see what we can do to make things better as the season goes on.

Where will the band and cheerleaders sit?

We’ll be in the middle of the student section.

Will we see the Lion driving the Zamboni?

He might not drive the Zamboni. But you might see him get dumped out of it. There’s a space inside the Zamboni where he can go in and hide, and during the club team’s games, he’d go in there and then get dumped out on the ice. The fans loved it.

Tina Hay, editor

October 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm Leave a comment

It’s Here: The July/August Issue

JA Cover orig text.inddActually, it’s not here — in our office, anyway. But the July/August issue has already made its way to plenty of readers’ mailboxes, even though our office copies aren’t due for another couple days.

If you’ve received your copy, we hope the cover got your attention. As Tina explained last week, our new art director, Marc Kauffman, enlisted the help of photo illustrator Aaron Goodman to create some cool designs featuring the Nittany Lion mascot for our cover story. Marc did some digging in the University archives and found tons of great photos of Nittany Lions past. (Be sure to check out the lion of the early 1960s, which we all agreed is the, uh, strangest iteration of the suit.)

For another feature, senior editor Lori Shontz ’91 traveled to Cuba on an Alumni Association trip back in March. As part of the cultural exchange—leisure trips to Cuba are forbidden for American visitors—Lori learned a lot about the country and its culture, including some contradictions that baffled even her Cuban tour guides. Lori tends to downplay her photography skills, but you’ll see that she captured some fantastic photos along the way, too.

Also in this issue: a profile of author David Morrell ’67g, ’70g, who’s written more than 30 thriller novels over the course of his career, including First Blood, on which the movie Rambo was based. In the feature, he sheds some light on the inspiration behind his latest novel, Murder as a Fine Art.

Other good stuff you’ll find in the July/August magazine: a profile of Nittany Lion offensive lineman John Urschel ’12, ’13g, who’s working toward his second master’s degree in mathematics; a recap of May’s Board of Trustees election, with a look at the three new members; and my thoughts on completing (OK, surviving) “Murph,” a CrossFit workout to honor Lt. Michael Murphy ’98.

Let us know what you think of the new issue. Comment below or email

Mary Murphy, associate editor 

June 24, 2013 at 10:33 am 1 comment

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