Belmont’s National Invitation Tournament game against Robert Morris University last Friday was a memorable game, made even more so by the special performance given by Bruiser the Bruin during halftime.
His dance routine was special for many obvious reasons–his moves being the main one–but it was especially unique for a reason many in the audience may not have even realized.
It was his last.
The man inside Bruiser’s suit is scheduled to graduate this May, after which he will send his days of being a two-legged bear off to a long hibernation.
That man is Ryan Rose, a Belmont music business major who, like Bruce Wayne, carries a great secret: he leads a double life.
By day, he is an unassuming senior on track to graduate, like most of his peers. But, by night, he is a ferocious bear whose choreography is as sharp as his claws.
“I get a sense of pride out of doing it,” Rose said. “The surprise that people get when they find out about my role is also rewarding. They don’t think of me as me inside of the suit. They think of him.”
This double life is one he has led since his sophomore year, the year he decided to fulfill a long-held dream and become a mascot.
“I wanted to try mascotting when I was in high school, but the opportunity didn’t really come to me,” he said. “When I came to college, I found out about auditions and went for it.”
The audition process featured a 2-3 minute, self-choreographed dance routine or skit set to music. At least one prop was required, and the intent behind it was to mirror what a typical halftime show would be like.
Rose himself admitted that the audition was challenging due to a lack of experience, but one look at the seasoned Bruin he has become would make one instantly forget the fledgling cub he once was.
He has gained this veteran status through years of making appearances at events like the March of Dimes or Big Brothers Big Sisters, traveling with the team to places like the NCAA tournament and, of course, dancing and cheering on his team at the Curb Event Center every season.
Throughout all of this, he has discovered more about the character of Bruiser and ultimately more about himself.
“I can be very outgoing,” Rose said, “but in the suit I can be crazier than I am outside of it. Bruiser has a swagger, but a polite swagger. He’s more friendly than pompous, has a huge confidence and a huge ego, but he’s down-to-earth.”
Along with creating a character, Rose offered some advice as to what it takes to be Bruiser on a game-to-game basis.
“Everything is focused towards the fans,” he said. “You have to read the environment, and then take that environment and try to work with it as best as you can.”
That environment could include everything from scared children to absentminded fans, he said, but the key is winning them over.
“Trying to win over people is my favorite part. Getting someone who seems very absent and then dancing or doing something funny to flip their whole opinion is rewarding. People get joy out of what I’m doing—it’s bigger than myself.”
It truly is bigger than himself, which is why there will be a definite hole to fill once he enters “real life” and begins his job at Picturebooth in May. His partner and fellow Bruiser, J.T. Faircloth, will take over all of Rose’s responsibilities.
“Ryan and I are counterparts,” said Faircloth. “We’ll lose a really good college mascot. Belmont’s been really blessed to have him, and I thank him for everything he’s done to help me become a better mascot, and everything he’s done for Belmont and for cheerleading. It’s been a great ride.”
Tryouts to fill the spot of the second Bruiser are scheduled to be held alongside cheerleading tryouts on April 11-12.