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Beth Erickson | Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Famous for his contagious spirit and uncontrollable exuberance at Notre Dame football games, leprechaun Mike Brown remains at the forefront of fans’ memories more than seasons after his graduation.Although he is remembered for his enthusiasm and performance, there was a day when Brown’s fame was sparked by his skin color.”When I first became leprechaun, there was so much media attention drawn to it because of my race,” he said. “There was a lot of buzz around campus, around South Bend, in my hometown, and I guess across the nation, too.”I don’t think any of that would have happened if I hadn’t been the first black leprechaun,” he said.” When the leprechaun was announced for the 2000 football season, the spotlight shone immediately on Brown. Seizing the opportunity, he didn’t miss the opportunity to impress. As cameras snapped and telephones rang, he good-naturedly agreed to photos and interviews, quickly working his way into the hearts of fans everywhere.”I tried not to focus on it too much,” he said. “I tried to focus on being the 22nd leprechaun, not the first black leprechaun.”While he heard a good number of light-hearted jokes, Brown said that, in his entire career as leprechaun, he never felt anyone stare and never heard one negative comment. Despite the positive reception he earned, Brown rejects the conception that he broke any barriers by becoming the first black leprechaun at Notre Dame. “A lot of people thought I broke barriers and did something so spectacular, but I just don’t think [any other blacks] had ever tried out,” he said. “It wasn’t really a barrier thing.”He and the cheerleaders went out on the field every game to cheer the team to victory, regardless of skin color, he said.”I had a great time, no matter what,” he said. “I got to meet so many people as a result, and I got to do so many things I would not have been able to do.”