Behind the Scenes at the Nittany Lion Photo Shoot
We 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?”
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