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2022-23 leprechauns talk journeys to leading Notre Dame fans

The Fighting Irish welcome four new leprechauns for the 2022-2023 year. Seniors Jake House and Jamison Cook, junior Ryan Coury and sophomore Colin Mahoney were selected. All four will be entering the role for the first time. The new Leprechauns reflected on their paths to the green suit and their hopes for the year.  

Ryan Coury

Coury did not think he would one day be the Fighting Irish mascot.

Coury grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, “bleeding gold and blue,” he said. His parents both attended Notre Dame, and he remembers singing along to the fight song with his dad every Saturday.

During his sophomore year, Coury worked for Fighting Irish media as a cameraman. He loved capturing the students’ excitement at games, and he was inspired by the role that past leprechauns have played in bringing energy to the crowd.

“I realized, man, it’s a lot easier to hype up a crowd without a camera on your shoulder,” Coury said. 

After hearing about the tryouts from friends on the cheer team, Coury decided to apply “kind of on a whim,” he said.

“In my mind, being a leprechaun was always a dream, but never something that I thought was a possible reality,” Coury said. “But the moment I realized it was on the table, I went for it.”

All four leprechauns volunteer at other events to engage the Notre Dame fanbase. His favorite part of the job, though, is being a part of a team and working with the other leprechauns.

“We are not only leprechauns ourselves, we are part of the cheer team,” Coury said. “Having those people behind you and with you at everything — it’s electric.”

Coury is a finance major with a real estate minor, and he plans to pursue sports business or real estate after graduation. On campus, Coury is the vice president of Dillon Hall and works as a tour guide for the admissions office. 

“At the core of what we do as leprechauns, we are ambassadors for the University. We are representing what [Notre Dame] stands for,” Coury said. “That’s something huge for me.” 

Jamison Cook

Unlike Coury, Cook did not grow up in a Notre Dame family, but that does not diminish his passion for Fighting Irish sports. 

Cook wanted to be a leprechaun to showcase his love for Notre Dame athletics. 

“You don’t have to be a lifelong fan to do something like this,” Cook said. “I wanted to share how much I have come to love Notre Dame on my own.”

Cook tried out for the leprechaun position three times before making the team his senior year. The tryout process involves a written application, a video application and in-person events and interviews.

“I think it’s pretty rigorous,” Cook said.

Eight to ten applicants are selected to participate in the in-person events. Over the course of three days, Cook and his fellow leprechauns led a mock pep rally, conducted a mock media interview and worked as the leprechaun at the Blue and Gold spring game. They were also interviewed by a panel of judges from the athletics department.

“If I’m completely honest, I don’t think I would have wanted to be a mascot if I was at a different school where you had to wear a big head or a mask,” Cook said.

He said he enjoys the creativity of being a “mouthpiece” for the university rather than a faceless mascot.

“I think that that’s something that the four of us really take very seriously but also have a lot of fun with,” Cook said. “We’re kind of the impersonation of what the Fighting Irish is.”

Cook is studying marketing and journalism, and he is originally from Eerie, Pennsylvania. Cook is currently recruiting for a career in brand management.

“I think [being the leprechaun] kind of gives me a unique perspective, especially for the field that I’m going into conveniently,” Cook said. “I’m very much living the Notre Dame brand and trying to bring it to life for people.”

Colin Mahoney

Mahoney believes the power of the leprechaun extends far beyond excitement at games.

“I think the leprechaun certainly has a presence on campus and has the resources and capabilities to be a force for good,” he said.

Mahoney hails from a family of farmers in Omaha, Nebraska. He was not originally committed to Notre Dame, but he switched his deposit at 11:45 p.m. the night of the deadline, partly because of the opportunity to be a leprechaun.

“I think very early on, I bought into the mission of the University,” Mahoney said. “Ultimately, I want to be a servant for others, and I think that’s what led me to Notre Dame.”

His favorite part of the job is when he gets to see a “tangible result.” Mahoney recently visited St. Adalbert Elementary School in South Bend to interact with young Irish fans. He was handing out high fives before the kids decided to hug him instead.

“That certainly felt good, because I left feeling like I had made those kids’ days better and hopefully gave them a memory that will last them a lifetime,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney lives in Duncan Hall and is majoring in finance and Spanish. He plans to pursue investment banking after graduation. 

Jake House

“The leprechaun is so special because you’re not in a mask, you get to see people face to face … and let them know that they are welcome … showing that Notre Dame is a place for everyone,” senior Jake House said. 

A romance languages and literature major originally from White Lake, Michigan, House said that he “grew up a fan of other colleges, and [Notre Dame] just wasn’t on my radar.”

“I applied to Notre Dame a few days before the application was due, because a friend mentioned it. I never really thought of it as a place for me, but I came for a visit and that first sight of the Golden Dome, you know, just walking around campus … you just get this different feel like, ‘Oh, this isn’t just a place to go to school, this is a family,’” House said.

House recalled a story from his freshman year which put him on the path to becoming the iconic Irish fighter.

“I transferred here from Holy Cross as a Gateway student, and I was a little lost one day and Leprechaun Conal [Fagan, class of 2021] came up to me and helped point me in the right direction, asked if I was doing okay and everything,” he said.

House continued, “I just felt so special because the Leprechaun talked to me and helped me out, and the chance to give that to other people, to make other people feel that way … I think it’s a gift, it’s really indescribable.”

A resident of Dunne Hall, House spoke on his previous high school experience that helped him grow into a student leader.

“I was class president in high school so I was always trying to get people to go out to events and be excited, but I was never a cheerleader or a mascot, it wasn’t my official title,” House said.

House then spoke on the community surrounding the University, saying, “Notre Dame isn’t just the students who go here, Notre Dame is the outreach to the South Bend community, it’s the alumni of course and just fans all over the place.”

House continued, “Notre Dame can sometimes feel like a bubble, it isn’t just the kids on campus bound by SR 933, Angela, Twyckenham and Douglas, it’s also Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross. The Notre Dame Leprechaun to me is about welcoming people,” House said. 

To conclude the conversation, in true Fighting Irish fashion, House had one final statement: “Go Irish!” 

Contact Meghan Lange at mlange03@saintmarys.edu.

Contact Katie Muchnick at kmuchnic@nd.edu.

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Viewpoint

You’ve never been to a football game?

As the school year is quickly ramping up, so is the Fighting Irish football season. However, one thing that is painful to admit to many of my friends this weekend, and now to you, the reader of this column, is that I have never been to a Notre Dame football game before. I know, I know. How does a super-senior manage to never have gone to a football game, especially being just across the street from Notre Dame? The answer: I just wasn’t ever able to. I am a student who has at least two jobs at a time when on campus, way too many friends to keep track of and assignments that flood way over my head. So, excuse me if I haven’t carved out some time for game days before. The thing is, I knew that this year was going to be different. I am still unsure of how much time I have left here as a student in the 46556 ZIP code, so it was important for me to jump on any opportunity this year to be able to see a bunch of sweaty young adults revel in the magic that Notre Dame Stadium has to offer. But, to begin such a massive undertaking, there had to be a plan, and like most of my plans it did not go all too well. 

The night before the game, I wanted to go to Drummer’s Circle, a spectacle I have been lucky enough to witness before. Of course, I was unable to go because by the time I realized it was happening, it was one in the morning. So, we’re not at a great start for the weekend. Then, while walking past Siegfried Dining Hall on Holy Cross campus, I confirm with my friends that we are meeting at 11:30 a.m. for brunch; but come 11 a.m., all of us are running late. I have no eyebrows on yet, one friend already left without us, my other friend is on hour four of tailgating and we still have to buy snacks. I wanted to chug a Red Bull and fly, and I should’ve. Instead I sped through a blue-and-gold appropriate makeup look, ate a full plate of brunch and managed to remember to drink water, all in the span of 30 minutes. Impressive, I know, but I wanted to set myself up for success this game day. 

Moving along in this story, I met with one of my original group members, and then I joined a new group of girls. This was my best case-scenario. I was wearing The Shirt along with a denim mini-skirt and my “going out” trashed white Vans. I was hopeful that being with a group of girls would boost my confidence because being a 6’1 tall male-presenting person in a denim mini-skirt in God Country, Notre Dame is still nerve-wracking. Nonetheless, we ventured into Domer territory and made a couple of stops along the way. We passed by a tailgate where I ended up with a free shirt, we watched the Band Concert at Bond Hall and went for a bathroom break at South Dining Hall. Things were looking up for sure. We saw classmates, professors and successfully evaded embarrassing exes along the way. 

It was 30 minutes until game time and we made our way to Notre Dame Stadium when the anxiety started settling in. I wasn’t sitting in the student section of this game so I found myself looking for another friend of mine that graduated last year. We hugged at Library Lawn and found our way to the gate closest to our section. I walked slowly in anticipation. My shirt is a darker color by this point so I knew worrying about my outfit was a lost cause, but I worried about getting in. It was the same type of anxiety you get when going through TSA: I had no malicious intent in going to the game, but I felt guilty somehow. We got in, smiled at the event staff, wished them a good day and I was in. I almost cried. I still don’t know why I almost cried then, or when the band played, or when we got a touchdown, or when I saw our new head coach on my souvenir cup, but I tell you, dear reader, I almost cried. 

That is the thing about this football culture, specifically as a Holy Cross student going to a Notre Dame home game. It can often make students like myself, especially students of color, feel like outsiders or not part of the crowd. There was a moment when I thought to myself, “This is why people can’t believe I’ve never been to a game before.” But, I look back at yesterday’s game and, despite losing, I think about all the wins I had. I had great seats (Section 10, Row 32, Seat 6), I had one of my best friends next to me, I had The Shirt and I had a culture of tradition and pride around me. The energy was addicting and invigorating all at the same time. Now I wonder if I’ll ever find myself in a position to go back to witness the Fighting Irish on their home turf, but I know that I can cross this sequence of events off my bucket list. In the future I know three things to do: one, get a clear fanny pack; two, bring more sunscreen; three, sit in the student section for sure. So, to close, it only feels right to make a Taylor Swift reference: Today was a fairytale.”

Gabriel B. Ibarra is a Chicago native currently attending Holy Cross College; majoring in Visual Arts – Studio Track – with a minor in Elementary Education. If not crying to any of Taylor Swift’s re-recordings, you can find them somewhere in the tri-campus causing chaos with laughs, pointed jokes, and one of many emotional support water bottles in hand, or leading Holy Cross College’s First Generation Club as the vice president. Learning to write for a newspaper is harder than expected, so they can be contacted on Twitter @gbenito11 or via email at gibarra@hcc-nd.edu.

The views expressed in the column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.