Who’s got two legs, all the moves, and is a well-known hothead?
By Tony Phifer | Photo submitted by Dan Seaman
Dan Seaman had no idea what he was starting 35 years ago, when he first donned a surplus football uniform and an oversized – and decidedly homemade-looking – Ram’s head. But it’s safe to say Colorado State University athletics events and the fan experience have never been the same.
The University tried to establish a two-legged version of the beloved CAM for several years before Seaman’s tenure as mascot in 1983-1984, but there was no ongoing commitment. Starting with Seaman, the role became an official part of Colorado State’s Spirit Squads in the Department of Athletics, and the two-legged mascot gained a permanent position alongside University cheerleaders. CAM was part of a wave of costumed mascots drafted in the 1970s and ’80s by professional and collegiate sports to help pump up the volume on fan spirit.
Mascots became popular after the San Diego Chicken hatched in 1974 as a publicity stunt for KGB-FM radio, then became a fixture on the San Diego sports scene. Now, almost every professional and major college team has a costumed mascot, and some are nearly as famous as the teams they represent. Think the Philly Phanatic, with the Philadelphia Phillies; the Phoenix Suns Gorilla; Rocky, with the Denver Nuggets; and let’s not forget Delta State’s Fighting Okra. (To be fair, they’re officially the Statesmen.)
Seaman, a mechanical engineering major, had spent his freshman year playing trumpet in the CSU marching band when he spied a booth in the Lory Student Center advertising cheerleading tryouts and the need for a mascot.
“I filled out an application, introduced myself, and told them I was going to be the mascot,” he recalled. That bravado, he said, helped him land the role; after all, a mascot’s gotta have swagger.
With that, the days of CAM as an afterthought were over. Seaman made CAM cool: an entertainer and an integral part of the CSU experience. He devised clever routines, hugged kids, and waded into the crowd. Seaman’s buddies ribbed him for what looked like giant papier-mâché horns on his big, furry Ram’s head. But his CAM invariably added to the fun at football and basketball games.
High jinks weren’t out of the question, as Seaman proved at Folsom Field in Boulder. The football rivalry between Colorado State and the University of Colorado was revived in Fall 1983 after a 25- year hiatus, and Rams fans were ecstatic. Seaman thought it would be hilarious to cut in on CU’s greatest pre-kickoff tradition: the running of Ralphie, the live buffalo mascot.
“I worked with our male cheerleaders to rig up a harness for me, and we sneaked out onto the field in front of Ralphie,” he said, laughing at the memory. “We could have been trampled, but it sure was fun.”
CSU fans were delighted. CU fans, not so much. CAM and his crew were pelted with oranges from the student section.
During timeouts at basketball games, when the pep band played the ’60s hit “Wipe Out,” Seaman coaxed kids from the stands onto the Moby Arena court for a dance contest. One regular became a crowd favorite, dubbed “Eric the Incredible Dancing Boy.”
Seaman is now 56 and a software and data storage engineer living in Longmont, Colo. He wore the costume one year, becoming a cheerleader as a junior, but a tradition was born. Two-legged CAM became a regular with the CSU cheer team, and each new CAM has done his or her best to add to the legacy as costumes, through the decades, have become more refined versions of a bighorn sheep. (By contrast, the live-animal CAM – an acronym for Colorado A&M, the University’s earlier name – is a Rambouillet, a breed of domesticated sheep.)
Those who embody CAM take great pains to maintain their anonymity. That’s especially important because – in order to cover more than 100 annual appearances – three or more students take turns portraying the mascot during a given academic year. Most tell only their closest friends about their alter ego, and some conceal their identities long after their time in the suit.
Ashley Garrison, for instance, works for the Colorado State Forest Service in Woodland Park, yet hasn’t told many friends or co-workers about her role as CAM, even 10 years after graduating. She had a close call once while cavorting with The Bird, mascot for the U.S. Air Force Academy. Garrison literally lost her head and had to scramble to replace it before she was recognized.
Marc Taylor, one of three former CAMs who became professional mascots, took performing to a new level during his two years in the mid-’90s – a period that coincided with some of CSU’s greatest athletics feats. Taylor transformed CAM into a must-see performer while Becky Hammon was becoming a hoops legend and the Rams were making history on the football field by winning the Holiday Bowl in 1997.
Taylor would sneak into Moby Arena at night to practice new stunts. He built an inline skating ramp so he could dive onto mats. He dropped a rope from the rafters so he could rappel to the court as the crowd gasped.
“I loved doing those types of things,” Taylor said. “They seemed high-risk and scary, but they really were actually pretty safe.”
Those antics, and a friendship with Rocky, the Denver Nuggets mascot, helped Taylor land a job as Howler for the Colorado Avalanche; that led to a gig as Squatch, the Seattle SuperSonics mascot. He spent nearly 20 years as a professional mascot in Denver, Seattle, and Oklahoma City before “growing up” and going into business at age 40.
Beasley, the recent CAM grad, now does part-time work as Miles, with the Denver Broncos, and Stix, with the Denver Outlaws lacrosse team. He’s friends with more than 100 college and pro mascots and is part of a Facebook community exclusively for mascots. There are camps around the country to help mascots develop and expand their routines, and there’s even a Mascot Hall of Fame.
Several CAMs served as mascots at their high schools before wearing the suit at CSU. But for most, their CAM careers were flukes.
Brady O’Neill, who landed a job with the Colorado Rockies because of his work as CAM, started mascot work at Denver’s Elitch Gardens as a teenager, when he dressed as Bugs Bunny and other characters. A theater fan at heart, he considered the CAM suit his costume and the football field his stage. O’Neill now manages Dinger, the purple dinosaur mascot for the Colorado Rockies.
O’Neill, who was CAM from 2001-05, remains a huge Rams fan and tries to get to as many CSU events as possible. He’s a father now, and his 8-year-old son recently learned about his exploits.
“He tells people all the time, ‘My dad was CAM!’ He thinks it’s the greatest,” O’Neill said. “Who knows? He might be at CSU 10 years from now in costume. That would be pretty cool.”