ND names leprechaun
Sam Stryker | Monday, May 2, 2011
Notre Dame took another step in preparations for next football season Friday, naming junior Mike George as the varsity Gold Squad Leprechaun for the 2011-2012 school year.
George was one of five students who made it to the final tryouts for the leprechaun position. The tryout, held in the Pit the basement of the JACC, consisted of a mock pep rally and introduction for a speaker, reacting to an in-game situation, a media interview, an Irish jig and apushup contest.
George, a resident of Keough Hall hailing from Eden Prairie, Minn., served as the junior varsity Leprechaun for the Blue & Green Squad this past year. He said he was well prepared for tryouts as a result of his time on the Blue & Green Squad.
“It is great because you have experienced a lot of situations before. We would be presented with some things over the course of our tryout, and [I] actually had experienced those situations,” George said. “The new people might try to imagine that, but [I] have had the chance to experience it so it makes it easier.”
George said he has learned to quell his nerves before such daunting situations as the tryout.
“You always get a little bit of fluttering right before you step out, and as soon as you step on it’s a matter of just saying, ‘All right, its time to go,'” he said.
George said remembering what the leprechaun represents helps him prepare for big-game conditions.
“People always ask me how I do not freak out when I am up there, how in front of a crowd I can do these crazy things. The way I have learned to deal with that is, you don’t look at it as you yourself are up there,” he said. “The leprechaun is up there. When you enter that mentality, it makes things a blast.”
Disappearing into the spirit of the role is what all those who have held the position hope to achieve, George said.
“You don’t have to worry what people think,” he said. “It is not you, it is the leprechaun. You can embody that spirit of Notre Dame, which is what all leprechauns strive for.”
Two football games in particular stand out as key events in his term as leprechaun, George said.
“You’ve got the night game at the Big House [at the University of Michigan] that everyone is really excited for,” he said. “But we have our own night game [against USC,] which I think everyone is even more excited for, so those are going to be awesome times on campus.”
George said he also is looking to energize the spirit of Notre Dame in new ways.
“I’m also looking for the chance to affect tradition a little bit,” he said. “We stick very much to tradition here at Notre Dame, which is great, but we want to make that come alive again too, in any way.”
Though he had no cheerleading experience prior to his time at Notre Dame, George said in high school he was active in coordinating spirit events.
“I’ve had experience planning things out. Knowing that, I can bring that here to Notre Dame and use some of my friends throughout the University to [brainstorm] what we can do to make tradition come alive,” he said. “I think we will come up with some great ideas this summer, as well as the stuff we know and love that is not going to change.”
Although he wants to energize campus in a variety of ways, George said as it stands now the success of the athletic teams has taken care of a lot of the work on their own.
“We don’t need that much now to be excited for next year or right now given the success of all our sports teams,” he said. “There’s not too much we need to do to build on that excitement, it is already there. It is just going to be a matter of what we can do to supplement that.”
Although he was reluctant at first, George said it was at the behest of some friends who visited Notre Dame that he decided to try out for leprechaun.
“When I finally got to try-outs at the end of the year, I said to myself if I was going to do it, I wanted to go all out, I am not going to take any half measures,” he said. “At the very least I [was] going to have some interesting stories.”
Though he said he has many fond memories of his tenure as Leprechaun on the Blue & Green squad, George said one women’s basketball game stands out in particular. He spotted a young fan in the stands during this season’s game versus Seton Hall with a sign reading, “Leprechaun Mike is Awesome!” and ran up to greet him.
“Then some of the fans suggested taking him down on the floor with me, so I did. He ended up cheering the rest of the game with our team, helping out with everything,” George said. “He was a perfect leprechaun, already seemed to know how to ham it up for the camera, and had much better dance moves than me.”
Sophomore Bryce Burton, a resident of Siegfried Hall from Newburgh, Ind., was selected to succeed George as Leprechaun for the Blue & Green Squad. He said he anticipates spreading the tradition of the position across the country.
“It is really exciting to represent Notre Dame and to do all the traveling that goes with it,” Burton said.
Burton said he appreciates the support from peers who encouraged him at Friday’s tryouts.
“I had to make sure all my friends were there and there was some loud support for me,” he said. “I bring a lot of excitement and I just think it is good we finally have another redheaded Leprechaun.”