Joe is Idaho’s favorite Vandal. He stomps about, high-fiving fans, dances like a goof and spreads joy to everyone he greets.
“I’m given the authority to misbehave and to embarrass,” Joe Vandal said. “To be a big absolute child at these events and get away with it and make people laugh.”
The large Vandal isn’t just a mascot, but a person. An average college student who lives day to day on campus making memories as he goes.
Joe is constantly seen all over Idaho and the northwest, whether it be on car magnets or coffee mugs. The mascot himself is in high demand. He can be found everywhere from Vandal athletic games to elementary schools and public events — among other things.
“He is the face, everybody can recognize him. No matter what year it is, everyone wants to see Joe,” said former cheerleader, Morgan Berriochoa. “He is the face of tradition, pride as well as school spirit. He is the whole package and what it is to be a Vandal.”
Like Superman, Joe Vandal is sworn to secrecy and keeps his identity hidden from the general public. Berriochoa said it is tradition for Joe Vandal to reveal himself at the final home game of his senior year, until then, he remains anonymous. “No talking, the moment you talk, is the moment you lose the illusion,” Joe Vandal said. “You don’t tell people everyday that you’re the mascot.”
In order to obtain the position as mascot, one must become a part of the cheerleading team. Berriochoa said the applicant needs to be athletic, memorize routines and have an out-going personality and flexible schedule.
The Joe Vandal interviewed, however, did not have all of these qualities. He said it was very hard to adjust because of his naturally shy personality. As a new college student, he was often timid around new environments.
“I’m definitely surprised on how much I enjoy [being a mascot] now,” Joe Vandal said. “I was all out of my comfort zone so it made it hard for me to be a very cheery, happy-go-lucky mascot kind of figure.”
Being the schoolmascot changes a person.Someone can be shy and uncomfortable with the position when first starting the job, but as time passes, the experience and memories build. They build confidence, flexibility and relationships.
“Things that I do, things that I get away with the interactions I have with people really puts a smile on my face beneath the giant smiling head,” said Joe Vandal. “It definitely was a big 180 toward my experiences. My attitude towards Joe Vandal has changed from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. I realized that this job is extremely important to the university.”
Angelyn Cox was a participant in the UI JAMM workshop.