The jaguar is sweating up a storm — the crowd is cheering him on. At the edge of the basketball court, he hears the music bounce from wall to wall. The excitement of the crowd pumps him up. With all the spirit he can muster, he begins to dance.
Have you been wondering who wears the jaguar costume that represents Texas A&M-San Antonio?
Meet criminology junior Gerry Tovar, one of two work-study students relied on by University Communications to represent A&M-San Antonio as the jaguar mascot.
Tovar has only attended about five events but he is already enthusiastic about the role he fills for the University.
“It feels pretty awesome,” Tovar said. “I can really be myself.”
Tovar said of the few events he’s attended, they’ve left a lasting impression on him. He said enjoys playing the role of the jaguar mascot.
Tovar’s first “gig” was at College Day, an event held at the Alamodome.
“It was absolutely packed,” he said.
Tovar said Mayor Julián Castro was there along with senators and representatives.
“It was a big event with a lot of big names,” he says.
He thought he would only be handing out fliers and conversing with attendees, but he was told to dance with no prior warning. “I had to improvise,” Tovar said. “It was intense.”
Tovar said he can dance to any kind of music he’s given.
“I’ve done break dancing, hip-hop and just basic dance steps,” Tovar said. “I can’t do anything too crazy because of the costume.”
Inside the costume — wearer tells all
The University’s Panthera onca is black and furry on the outside. The body fits like a glove, but the head is “way out of proportion.”
“It’s like a bobble head,” Tovar said.
The head is a foam-like material. The inside of the costume is a smooth heavy fabric. “The inside feels kind of weird,” Tovar said. “It’s smooth but you can still feel the threading from the fur.”
At the Flambeu night parade, where he had to walk behind A&M-San Antonio’s float Tovar said he “had to have a guide.”
“I was sweating up a storm, but it’s not like I can take off the costume in public,” Tovar said. “And I kept feeling like the head was going to fall off. It’s huge.”
Big cat on campus
Considering trying out to be the jaguar? His advice is “be confident and have fun.”
“If you are confident, your personality will come out,” Tovar said.
Currently, A&M-San Antonio is renting a jaguar mascot costume to use at various events promoting the University.
“We want to get our name out there,” said Marilu Reyna, associate vice president for University Communications.
Since a student vote on Oct. 23, 2009, declared the jaguar as University mascot, its popularity has increased.
Initially funding was not allocated to purchase the mascot, so renting has been a more cost efficient option, Reyna said.
“We rent it in a timely fashion,” Reyna said. “Usually when events are occurring around the same time.”
Tovar said that he should be wearing the new costume at the next promotional event.
The University is in the process of ordering a customized costume. The costume will be customized to A&M-San Antonio’s preferences and will be owned by the University.
“Eventually we want to have tryouts for the mascot spot and give him a name,” Reyna said. “And those selected will then participate in an official mascot training camp.”
Tovar said, “It would be cool if we could involve the whole campus in naming it.”
Reyna said being a two-year college and the lack of a sports program somewhat hinders the process. It has been difficult, she said, to find and keep a student in the costume for any length of time.
“Our students are on a serious academic track and typically graduate within 18-24 months,” Reyna said.
That high turnover affects how quickly University Communications can invest in tryouts and the official mascot camp.
“It’s hard to keep student mascots because they leave too fast,” Reyna said.
Right now the main focus for the mascot is to bring recognition to the institution.
“We want to take every opportunity to showcase the University and we know our mascot is a great way to that recognition,” Reyna said. “We want the jaguar out in the community helping us recruit students and market the University.”
Tovar said he also wants to help the University in any way he can.
See the A&M-San Antonio jaguar 10 a.m. March 3 at the San Antonio Police Training Academy, 12200 SE Loop 410. Tovar will entertain at a festival and car show at the academy’s driving range. Admission is $10.