We all know WebstUR -- our fuzzy, energetic, eight-legged mascot who can be found riling up the crowd on game day or welcoming prospective students on campus visits. We know that WebstUR is a symbol of school spirit and One Richmond. But what do we know about the people inside the suit?
Only a few people on campus today know what it is like to be WebstUR. One of them is senior Tilley Neuhoff, who has been portraying WebstUR at University of Richmond events since the spring.
For Neuhoff, WebstUR is a symbol of campus unity, and she said bringing him to life around campus is just as rewarding for her as it is for the people she interacts with while in the suit.
“I really like doing the women’s soccer games,” Neuhoff said. “When I was there, the parents were all like, ‘WebstUR’s never come to our games before, I'm so happy that he’s here.'" They were really supportive of it, and it meant a lot to them that the school was treating all sports with the same enthusiasm.”
Another student who has had the opportunity to become WebstUR is sophomore and Richmond local Noah Campbell, who got in the suit last March for the children's portion of the Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K.
“My favorite part was the ability to shed off any social anxiety or any nervousness and just goof around,” Campbell said. “It was a lot of fun -- it really was -- because when else can you just dance like no one’s watching, because it's not you, it’s WebstUR dancing?”
Although Campbell enjoyed interacting with the kids and cheering on the runners, he said that one of the most interesting parts of his time as WebstUR had happened after he had taken off the suit.
Nutzy, mascot of the Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball team, was also at the event and challenged WebstUR to a dance-off. After the event, a Flying Squirrels representative introduced himself to Campbell and offered him a job based on his performance as WebstUR.
Although Campbell did not take the job, he said he had been flattered, and appreciated the unique opportunity he had while being WebstUR.
Eric Hulse, director of marketing and sales for Spider Athletics, manages the WebstUR suit and says he values the dedication and specific qualities needed to bring the mascot to life.
“WebstUR’s supposed to be that central figure,” Hulse said, “and so providing that passion and knowing that you’re there to make a difference for not just the game, and not just a couple fans, but for the whole university -- passion is just the most important thing there.”
One thing that Neuhoff, Campbell and Hulse can agree on is that, as cool as it is to be WebstUR, it can get really, really hot.
“When you’re in that suit, it’s nothing but fur,” said Hulse, who had been WebstUR at the beginning of this semester. “It was 100 degrees last Wednesday and I was dying. It was so hot.”
Keeping the suit fresh and clean after it has been worn for hours in the heat is a priority. WebstUR’s grooming routine includes thorough washes, followed by a once-over with a dog brush to keep his fur looking its best, Hulse said.
Bringing WebstUR to life can be hard work, but the effect his presence has on the UR community is what makes the task worthwhile for Neuhoff, Campbell and Hulse when they wear the suit.
“The point of them -- as much as mascots are there to lead the cheers and be in the stands -- is something to make people smile,” Hulse said. “If WebstUR goes out into the community and makes one extra person smile a day, whether he's visiting a hospital or on the sidelines, that’s a success in my book. And that's the kind of thing that we want our people inside the suit to remember, is that they’re in the suit to make a difference in people's lives.
"If he makes a positive difference, it’s worth it.”
Contact news writer Lauren Guzman at firstname.lastname@example.org.