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Irish mascot competes on SpikeTV program

Jenn Metz | Thursday, March 22, 2007

Just because Notre Dame’s basketball season has come to an end doesn’t mean that Leprechaun Kevin Braun’s duties are over. Tonight, the senior will be featured in a special college mascot edition of SpikeTV’s “Pros vs. Joes 2” – potentially the last time he will be seen in the green suit.

Braun, along with Penn State’s Nittany Lion Dave Johnson and Wisconsin’s Bucky Badger Sky Halverson, flew to California to film the episode last December on an all-expenses paid trip.

Preparation began early last fall when Notre Dame cheerleading coach Jo Minton told Braun he had an offer to be on the show, which airs at 10 p.m. tonight. With the help of his fellow cheerleaders, Braun prepared an audition video that showcased him playing basketball and football around campus.

Braun said the show usually puts three regular “Joes” – in this case, the mascots – with varied athletic skills up against retired professional athletes, or “Pros,” in their respective sports.

While the three mascots signed documents that forbid them to discuss the results of the contest, Braun said keeping that information from family, roommates and teammates “has been pretty difficult.”

The competitions featured on tonight’s show include baseball, football, soccer and basketball events with Darryl Strawberry, Andre Reed, Cobi Jones and Spud Webb, respectively.

The trip to California was “different,” Braun said. He arrived late Sunday night and immediately began filming segments for the show.

“It was bizarre,” he said. “I was jet-lagged. We were on a very nocturnal-like schedule.”

The filming took place during class days, but Braun said his professors were very supportive and excited about his opportunity.

Though he’s been featured on TV many times as the Leprechaun, Braun said filming on a set was a very different experience.

“I’m used to being in five-second clips … [but] in [the episode] I’m prominently displayed performing athletic feats,” he said. “It was fun playing sports on camera, but I had to perform with personality.”

Braun said the show’s events are creative and tended to focus on aspects of the sports the pros excelled in. One event with Strawberry featured the former MLB star hitting fly balls for the Joes to catch.

There are three preliminary events, and the top two mascots from those advance to overtime, which features more direct competition. The events were filmed in the Home Depot Center outside Los Angeles, the home of Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy.

The winner of the show gets to “take the jersey off the Pro’s back” and receives signed jerseys. Braun mentioned a “Pros vs. Joes Tournament of Champions” as another incentive to win.

While they competed in normal athletic gear, Braun and the other mascots filmed the introductory segments in their suits.

“The pros heckled us in our goofy outfits,” said Braun, who described the experience as “intimidating.”

“The other two can’t see [in their outfits], they don’t talk, and they’re covered in fur,” he said. “It was interesting to see the other mascots’ personalities come out and to watch them do their thing.”

His three years of cheerleading experience made him physically stronger, he said, but Braun had to think back to his high school intramural days to prepare for the competition. While he said he was pleased with his performance, he is curious how the editors treated the mascots during the production process.

“I have no idea what the final product looks like. The three of us did some very embarrassing things. … I don’t know how many bloopers they’re going to show,” he said.

Braun said he and the mascots didn’t get to interact with the pros that much during the early filming.

“It was someone’s job to take care of the pros so we wouldn’t pester them,” he said.

After the final event, however, they took the Joes back to their locker room and signed autographs and took pictures.

“They [the pros] were very nice, but trash talk was encouraged. They wanted to make good, sensational TV,” Braun said.

Braun said about 25 percent of the filming was devoted to the actual competition, while 75 percent was “reality TV stuff,” like the trash talking. He’s most concerned about how his acting looks on film.

“I want people to watch, but at the same time I’m afraid about how potentially embarrassing this could be,” he said.

Even with the risk of embarrassment, Braun said all three mascots jumped on board with the show, which he called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Overall, it was a very exciting experience and I have maintained close contact with the other two mascots,” Braun said. “Being in front of a camera and learning how many people go into the production of a successful TV show were very eye-opening experiences.”