“J.J. hasn’t really learned to control his behavior,” said Paulina Sosa, 21, a Georgetown senior from Houston who was dragged along.
“Especially around meat.”
J.J. arrived at Georgetown this spring and has been training to become the school’s next mascot. He studies under the watchful eye of the current mascot, Jack, a 9-year-old bulldog who is slowing down with age. While many schools rely on a student in a fuzzy costume to pump up crowds at games, a few schools use a live animal to do so. J.J. will be among that elite.
What does it take to be Georgetown’s mascot? Poise and chillness, especially among massive crowds, such as those that fill Verizon Center for Hoya basketball games. A mascot can’t be fearful of thundering applause, tipsy celebrators or small children. He must master looking straight at the camera for photos. Lunging at meat products is a definite no-no.
And, most important, a Georgetown mascot must be able to sprint onto the basketball court and destroy a cardboard box adorned with the colors of the opposing team — not just chew, not just rip, but destroy — as the crowd screams: “Eat that box! Eat that box!”
Crowds at lacrosse and football games haven’t bothered the puppy, said the Rev. Christopher Steck, a Jesuit priest who lives with Jack and J.J. in an apartment on the fourth floor of a dorm filled mostly with freshmen.
But at hoops-crazy Georgetown, basketball season is another world for mascots, with thousands of fans wanting any sign of good luck and network cameras seeking adorable cutaway footage.
J.J.’s first big test will be late Friday, when the season officially begins and Georgetown celebrates “Midnight Madness,” an opportunity for students to check out this year’s men’s basketball team — and the box-destroying skills of the mascot-in-training.
“It’s his big debut,” said Neve Schadler, 19, a sophomore from Connecticut who manages mascot appearances along with Sosa.
Jack and J.J. will tag-team mascot duties this school year. They share a Twitter account (@GeorgetownJack) and a golf cart dubbed the “Jack Mobile” so their short legs don’t get tired traveling to events. Next year, J.J. will jump into mascot duties full time while Jack enjoys the simple pleasures of retirement.
Last school year, it became clear that Jack was slowing down. On Selection Sunday in March, Jack was excitedly jumping on the couch and pulled his ACL, a leg injury that landed him in surgery. Shock and worry swept across campus, and the news quickly spread.