It's game day in Buffalo. The biggest Bull of them all stampedes into the locker room. He's the one that gets the team fired up and gets the fans into the game.
First, the uniform. Then, the sneakers. Finally – the horns and hooves?
Victor E. Bull is one of the most recognizable faces on Buffalo's campus. At each meet, game, and event, you can be assured that the big blue mascot will be on the sidelines, dancing and showing school pride. But few people know what it takes, mentally and physically, to enter Victor's world.
By putting on the mascot head you physically become Victor, but for those in costume there is a mental component that goes with being the face of the university.
"The worst thing is when I notice these people around campus and I'm ready to run up to them and say ‘hey,'" Victor said. "It is just then that I realize that they do not know me. It happened once that I tapped someone on the shoulder and said hello, before I realized I was not the person they knew me as. It's frustrating, but I have to be careful."
The most current student to wear the Bull's head knows firsthand the preparation and stress that goes with the territory. But for the person in costume, it's something that allows them to escape the everyday rigors of regular life.
"In being Victor, I allow myself two nights a week to go out and not study, watch a basketball game, and maybe, just maybe, go to bed early without falling asleep on [my] books," Victor said. "Every college student needs to live two lives, and Victor does that for me. I like that he allows me those two lives. He lets me step back from the first life, and jump into the second."
Mentally, Victor believes that being the character is something that was with him all his life. The key, according to Victor, is to have those two separate lives, something that he believes that all students have – just not all students wear a big blue costume and dance in front of thousands of fans.
Training for being the school's mascot is unique in that it's all up to the person playing it. Each person brings something unique to the costume, and the most recent Victor is no different. "At first, it seemed like it was a lot of stress," Victor said. "My first game (a men's basketball game on Dec. 3 against St. Bonaventure) was very crazy. It was shocking, but fun. I eventually learned to make it my own; to make it into my own show."
When it comes to the physical aspect, the constant toll of being in a huge costume can be a lot for a person.
"Three hours in a hot, heavy, large mascot uniform is taxing on your body," Victor said. "You constantly dance, run up and down flights of stairs, and make obnoxious gestures and movements to convey things to your audience without the use of your voice."
There is also the taxing aspect that Victor needs to make his presence known at a number of different sporting events. From swim meets to football games the big blue Bull is seen everywhere. And unlike the athletes who can wear different clothing depending on the weather, Victor is always consistent.
From the cold fields of UB Stadium in the late fall, to the hot, humid climates of the natatorium in Alumni Arena, every game is a new adventure and a new challenge, and Victor has learned to adapt to the various changes.
"Within four minutes [of being in the costume] I'm sweating," Victor said. "So I have to work out. I'm running stairs – I have to stay in shape. In the last couple of weeks, I did the wrestling match for Takedown Cancer event, I did the swim meet for Hope Floats and that was really hot. So I hit the gym, I run, and I make sure I eat and drink right."
Victor may not be part of the game, but the preparation involved in becoming the persona rivals the dedication that the athletes put into their craft. With no credit to the person who's in costume (his name has been withheld to protect the mascot's identity), being the Bull is a thankless job – but Victor doesn't care. He's enjoying his time in the suit just as much as the fans in the stands enjoy the shenanigans of their mascot.