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Mask-to-mask

Life's a roar when you're the Nittany Lion

In this space each week CNNSI.com will feature an exclusive one-on-one interview with some of college football's most famous mascots. Purdue Pete, the legendary mascot from Purdue University, recently chatted with the Penn State Nittany Lion for this hard-hitting, mask-to-mask interview.

Purdue Pete: Welcome, and congratulations on being CNNSI.com's first mascot exclusive.

Nittany Lion: Thanks for having me, Pete.

Purdue Pete: One of the reasons we asked you to be our first mascot is because your football team is at the top of our preseason poll. Does having the team so highly ranked put extra pressure on you, the mascot?

Nittany Lion: Being No. 1 in Sports Illustrated's poll does put a lot of extra pressure and high expectations on us. There is more media attention. Even as the mascot, I feel some pressure. But I love it. Especially with Arizona coming to town for such a huge game. I'm ready to tame the Wildcat and show which lion is king of the mascot jungle. The Nittany Lion is the strongest, toughest, and meanest lion in the mascot world.

Purdue Pete: Now you've battled against other cat mascots before, how about Willie the Wildcat at Northwestern?

Nittany Lion: Willie is a cool cat to hang out with. But I wouldn't say a dominant force.

Purdue Pete: In order to stay No. 1, your team is going to have to score a lot of touchdowns. Some of our users question the strength and power of your offense. What do you have to say to them?

Nittany Lion: Everyone talks about the Penn State defense -- which is great. They're going to be tough to get through. But too many people are counting out the offense. The offense is very much like the lion; it sits back and watches its prey, waiting for it to make a mistake. When it makes one, The Lion pounces on its prey. The defense is like a wall, it won't let one through. But the offense is going to go in for the kill when our opponents least expect it.

Purdue Pete: One of your traditions is you do a pushup for each point scored. Noah Pinto of Pennington, N.J. , was curious if you secretly hope for low scoring games?

Nittany Lion: I pride myself in our team. As I've said, The Lion is the strongest of all mascots. The more pushups I do, the stronger I get. As far as I am concerned, the more pushups the better.

Purdue Pete: What are the most amount pushups you've had to do at one time?

Nittany Lion: I'd have to go back and check, but I think it was 81 against Cincinnati a few years ago.

Purdue Pete: Trevor Gaffney of Miami, Fla. is already looking ahead to your much anticipated battle at Miami and particularly wants to know how you will handle Sebastian the Ibis "kicking your butt."

Nittany Lion: Them's fightin' words. From what I understand the Ibis is the last bird to leave a hurricane and the first to return. Well, he has no idea how to handle a tornado from the north. The strength of our defense and the keenness of the offense will mix to rip apart Miami. And Sebastian better be on the lookout for the Nittany Lion.

Purdue Pete: You must be pretty popular on campus. Do you describe yourself as a sex symbol?

Penn State Nittany Lion The Nittany Lion leads the Penn State crowd in the school’s traditional cheer of "We are... Penn State."  

Nittany Lion: I don't know about that. But after I do some flexing, girls will come out of nowhere to give me a hug or a kiss. It's become a tradition to pass the lion up the student section. Sometimes girls get a little "frisky" when they're passing me up the crowd. It just comes with the territory.

Purdue Pete: Speaking of your crowd surfing, another one of our users Jim Sledzik of Indian, Pa. wants to know when people are passing you up the crowd, do you get scared the people at the top may have been tailgating a little too long and pass you over the top?

Nittany Lion: That thought does occur to me. Most of the time, I don't even know where I am. Plus the way it feels with the way people place their hands on you, it can actually feel like you're moving down. When a ball goes in to the stands the crowd often cheers "throw it out." That cheer often echoes through my head as I'm surfing. So I always make sure I turn my head to see where I am and force my way down before anything bad happens. It's fun, but not something I advise anyone to do at home. Leave it to us mascots -- we're professionals.

Purdue Pete: I've seen a lot of photos with you and these baby lion cubs. Who are these cubs? Are they yours? Is there a Mrs. Nittany Lion out there we don't know about?

Nittany Lion: I'm sorry to say that there is no lucky lady lion in my life right now. These cubs are distant kin from across the state and some form across the country. They represent the various alumni Penn State has all over the globe. Around Halloween, a lot of parents will dress their kids up as a mini Nittany Lion. They're really cute.

Purdue Pete: How much do these kid costumes sell for?

Nittany Lion: Some people make their own. But you can buy them too. Maybe $30-$50. I'm not sure.

Purdue Pete: Of course you're getting a nice little kick back from the sales, right?

Nittany Lion: No, I wish.

Purdue Pete: You haven't been in the Big Ten all that long -- just a few years. Who would you say is the toughest mascot in the conference?

Nittany Lion: Sparty from Michigan State is very tough. He's big and strong. I would want him in my corner if I ever got in a big mascot rumble, But then again, he's all pillows and foam. The Nittany Lion is 100% natural. On the other end of the spectrum, there's Brutus the Buckeye at Ohio State -- well, he's just a nut. That's it. I mean the fans love him and he's very entertaining, but come on -- he's a nut. I'll tell you right now. His nut will be cracked when OSU comes to Happy Valley.

Purdue Pete: I have to ask this question. Where does Purdue Pete rate in your ranking of the mascots in the Big Ten?

Nittany Lion: You have to be careful of Pete. He carries that hammer -- it's a lethal weapon. He's also a good friend to have in that mascot rumble.

Purdue Pete: Good answer. Hey, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with our users. Is there anything else you would like to share with us before we go?

Nittany Lion: First of all, thanks for having me. I know I may have started some arguments with some other mascots. I want them to know I really respect all of them. But I welcome any challenge. I'm ready to stand behind my claim that the Nittany Lion is the king of all mascots.

Purdue Pete: Well, we'll see. Good luck this season.

Nittany Lion: Thanks, and go Penn State!

 


 
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