Although identities of mascots across college campuses are generally concealed, at Belmont University, the secret is out.
Bruiser is a constant at Belmont basketball games, and can be seen high-fiving students throughout the arena.
For now, mascot duties are handled by freshman Maximiliano Valenzuela and grad student Isaiah Jordan.
“We share it equally, we try to do 50-50 on games and events, because we’re students first,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela, a creative and entertainment industries major, is a rookie in the mascot game.
“At the beginning of the year I saw an announcement about being Bruiser and I just figured I could go for it,” he said.
Jordan has experience hyping up the crowd, but this is his first year as a Bruin — literally. He came to Belmont to get his masters degree in commercial music and quickly decided to return to his mascot roots.
“I’ve been a mascot since my eighth grade year, I was a tiger back then,” said Jordan. “When I was scrolling through MyBelmont I saw a mascot interest form and I thought to myself, ‘I should give it a try again.’”
Any time Valenzuela is inside the suit, one thing is for sure: he’ll dance.
“Dancing is probably my biggest talent, and the biggest thing for me when I’m Bruiser,” said Valenzuela, rating his moves a smooth nine out of 10.
On top of that, Valenzuela is a man of the people.
“I love interacting with the students, I love getting the student body hype with me,” Valenzuela said. “I like being in the stands, so when you see Bruiser up there, it’s probably me.”
Valenzuela attempts to give everyone a high five or a quick selfie, and he enjoys the fact that he doesn’t have to speak.
But even with a concealed identity, he’s still treated like a celebrity.
“I do feel like Batman sometimes,” Valenzuela said.
In some cases, Bruiser is even treated like a regular student.
“I’ve been invited to a party once,” he said. “Someone literally gave me their address after a game one time.”
Valenzuela’s favorite moment as Bruiser came during the Battle of the Boulevard, the annual Belmont-Lipscomb basketball game.
“Just how packed the arena was made me feed off the energy,” Valenzuela said.
But despite the magical feeling he got from the fans, Valenzuela missed what was arguably the biggest moment of the night — the half-court shot for tuition.
“I was in the bathroom putting water on my face, and then I heard a loud roar and someone on staff said, ‘you better get out there,’” Valenzuela said.
Thirty seconds later, Bruiser came sprinting from the tunnel.
Like his partner in pep, Jordan’s favorite thing to do is dance and mingle with the fans, he said.
He showcases his passion for flashing his dance moves during timeout dance-offs, but he’s been locking in on another skill.
“I’m getting better at acting,” Jordan said. “Since Bruiser can’t talk, it’s almost like a game of charades out there.”
Always energetic and full of life, Jordan unlocks a whole new personality once he ties on the durag with his sweatpants and slips into the suit.
“Once you put on that suit you’re absolutely, 100%, Bruiser,” Jordan said. “I think that’s the best part of the job.”
When you’re in the suit, the spotlight is on you, he said.
“It’s amazing, it's like everyone knows who you are,” Jordan said.
Jordan rarely passes up an opportunity to take a photo, especially with young fans sitting in the ‘Kids Zone’ inside the Curb.
Ascending to near superhero status, Jordan has starred as Bruiser in a sorority’s ice cream promotional video.
But Jordan’s top moment while being Bruiser came during the women’s basketball upset over No. 5 seeded University of Oregon in the NCAA Tournament.
During a timeout, the ever so famous Oregon Duck entered the court and attempted to hype up the fans.
“I went out on the court and started to mimic everything he was doing and our fans started feeding off the energy, it was so cool,” he said.
But the job isn’t without its challenges. Both Jordan and Valenzuela agree the suit is a pain to put on and is always extremely hot — especially during double headers.
But they love every minute as Bruiser, they said.
Being known as campus royalty while wearing the suit may seem tough to handle, but the two keep it cool and undercover while off duty.
“I don’t even introduce myself as Bruiser, it has to come up in conversation for me to reveal it,” Valenzuela said.
“It's cool to be humble, keeping it lowkey and not being too cocky about it,” Jordan added.
PHOTO: Bruiser on the sidelines of Belmont’s final home game of the season. Sarah Maninger/Belmont Vision
This article was written by Landen Secrest.