A time out at University of Maryland games may give the players a 60-second respite but 22-year-old junior Jimmy Wand gets no rest.
Dressed in a $2,000 turtle suit, Wand is the Maryland Terrapin mascot. (The Terrapins are named after an edible diamondback turtle indigenous to Maryland and other parts of North America.)
When the players take a break, the 5-7 Wand takes center stage and works hard to hold the fans' attention. The band strikes up and Wand gyrates to the music. Well . . . not exactly to the music. The band strike up and Wand bobs, wiggles, dances, jumps and turns cartwheels -- and neither he nor the band necessarily keeps in time with the other.
Wand -- who performs at all Terrapin football games but only at the team's home basketball games since mascots are not permitted at away college basketball games -- provides comic relief that the fans love.
"He relieves the pressure," said fan Buzz Morrisey, who wears his red Terrapin T-shirt to games.
The mascot "creates a lot of color. He is part of the whole (college sport) psyche," said Ken Winfield of Rockville, after watching Wand at a recent basketball game.
Wand, a recreation major, became the team's mascot two years ago after an ad appeared in the school paper for "turtle tryouts." He had never considered becoming the Terrapin mascot but tried out on a dare from a Theta Chi fraternity brother.
The tryouts consisted of three days of forming human pyramids, leading spell-out cheers and "jumping around as if you were in a turtle outfit," said Wand who believes it was his "timing and rhythm" that won him the judges' approval. "I did a lot of dancing."
Dancing still is the cornerstone of Wand's act but that is not all he does. He often leaves the floor to "go through the stands and shake people's hands and sit on people's laps. They get a big charge out of that," he said.
When the fans are on their feet clapping and yelling in unison, Wand encourages them with high sweeping arm movements that beg the crowd for more. And when the fans are angry over a "bad" call and the air is thick with boos, he shakes a finger at the referee.
Wand does his clowning around under 22 pound of full turtle regalia: a fuzzy, brown jump suit, plastic shell and an unwieldy head.
Most of his antics are unplanned -- largely because "I can't see very well," he said. Wand must peer through a narrow mouth opening in the turtle's head and a few small gauze-covered holes in the turtle's jaw.
Wand's biggest fans are little ones; the children who try to touch his shell or race up to shake his hand and then get flustered when he asks their name.
"When I saw him shake the other boy's hand, I thought he was a snapping turtle," said 5-year-old Matthew Harsh, who shook hands with the mascot at a recent game. "But he's a nice turtle. He's really neat."
Not all children think the turtle is "really neat."
"Sometimes they cry," Wand said. "When I get close to them, they realize how big the head is. Sometimes the head is as big as the kid and they get really intimidated and scared."
The job is far from easy. "I lose about four or five pounds a game," Wand said. It gets hot inside the turtle suit. And when it rains during the football season, Wand's jumps, cartwheels and dances get a little slower; "My suit soaks up all the water and it gets a lot heavier. After a while it's hard to get my legs up."
The endurance Wand built up during his days as a wrestler helps make him a good mascot, he said. The rest is an ability "to go crazy. A ham to the max."
Another brother, Andy Carafelli, says Wand is "the same out of the costume as he is in it. He keeps us in stitches continually around here."
When Wand is not on home turf, however, he sometimes becomes a lightening rod for the opposing fans antagonism.
"I get hit with a lot of toilet paper and things like that," Wand said. "But I can't feel anything; I'm well protected. I've got a helmet inside my (turtle) head."
But once Wand got hit by a D-size battery. "I did feel that," he said. "It hit me right in the chest. It knocked me back a couple of feet."
Even with the heckling and the hot, heavy costume, Wand would not mind going professional. "It would be an easy living," he said.