Classrooms, dorms, sports fields and a library may be what make a school, but it is the desire to help others, the drive for success, and the orange, white and blue that transforms this school into a community.
School spirit becomes a force to be reckoned with on game days. The biggest catalyst for the hype can likely be attributed to none other than SHSU’s mascot, Sammy Bearkat, who makes appearances at every major and many minor events on campus. The Houstonian sat down with Sammy himself along with Jarid Swope, one of his top bodyguards.
H: What distinguishes Sam Houston from other Universities?
S: What sets Bearkats apart is our passion for school spirit; that’s definitely number one. There’s no other mascot that could lead such a great school.Sammy is a mystery in more ways than one, but the question most students would like answered is what he is exactly. Some speculate that the “bearkat” was modeled after a kinkajou, a small, lemur-like animal from Central and South America. Others believe they are more closely related to a binturong, an Asian mammal that resembles something between a sloth and a cat, which has also been nicknamed a “bearcat.”
But the truth is that no one really knows what it is. Bearkats are mythical creatures, even down to the spelling of their name. The peculiar “k” has since become a campus-wide tradition, popping up in titles like Jobs for Kats, Katsafe and Kats for Christ.
H: How different is Sammy in the world of mascots?
S: [Sammy] is one of a kind. He’s very unique. Debatably, Sammy is the face of SHSU. He and the Sammy Squad, his team of bodyguards whose purpose is to assist and protect, appear at most sporting events as well as art shows and music performances. While his job is, of course, to entertain, Sammy loves showing off. There are his football push-ups and Katstomp, and he performs at half time during basketball games.Occasionally Sammy can be spotted in the Lowman Student Center mall area around lunch time. That is when he gets to hang out with all his friends and fans.
H: What is Sammy’s favorite part of his work on campus?
S: Sammy’s favorite thing is probably how much everybody loves him, all the hugs and the love. He can always guarantee a picture.There is one event where Sammy can’t be missed: the SHSU homecoming parade. Homecoming is a week-long celebration filled with food, games, the announcement of the homecoming king and queen and many mascot moments. Last year’s theme was Bearkat Heroes in honor of both the fictional and real heroes in student’s everyday lives. Sammy especially enjoys getting to see all the costumes.
H: Sammy is known for a variety of things, what’s one of his best known?
S: Sometimes he dresses himself up. [This past year]…was kind of cool because at the beginning of it, he was Clark Kent, and by the end, he was Superman. Still, there is one event that might even top homecoming, but only a lucky few ever see it in person. Every year in Daytona, Florida a group hosts an NCA tournament with two major competitions: cheerleading and mascot routines. About a dozen mascot teams from across the country meet to compete in their own hilarious 90-second skits. SHSU took first last year, and it stole the top spot again this season for its “out of this world” performance.
H: What was Sammy’s routine fort he competition?
S: Sammy went to space looking for aliens; he encountered the king alien, and that’s when he went all „Space Jam“ on him. My favorite [event] is definitely going to Daytona. We work on the skit all year, so it’s all the work we’ve put in coming to fruition. Being Sammy comes with its challenges, like when he’s trying to communicate through his own kind of sign language or when little kids will tackle him with hugs, but those are no match for this fun-loving feline.There are a lot of things that make a school what it is, but schools should be more than a book and four walls. Schools should act as a community, a home away from home and the place where students can find their callings. SHSU takes this ideology to a whole new level.