Out from under fur and foam: Rooney revealed!

There were days when Andrew Cullen '10 wondered what on earth he was thinking when he signed up to be Roanoke College's first Rooney mascot.

Sweating profusely inside a costume where the temperature typically was 20 to 30 degrees hotter inside than out, "I wondered 'What possibly could have possessed me?'," he said.

Then a child would approach him, and Cullen would give him or her a hug, and sign an autograph.

"Their face would just light up and I'd sit there and think 'You know what? That's why I signed up," Cullen said.

Cullen, of Frederick, Md., holds the distinction of being the very first Rooney, the Maroon-tailed hawk mascot who is more friendly than fierce.

Cullen had a "coming out," so to speak, at the 2010 commencement. Peeking out from beneath his traditional black gown were his Rooney feet, a clear indication that yes, it had been he under that 211 pounds of fur and foam for a little more than a year.

Revealing his identity was a first for Cullen, who had years of mascot experience prior to his stint as Rooney. During high school, he was a bee (school team's name: the Yellow Jackets). That led to him suiting up in a McGruff the Crime Dog costume for a local Boy Scouts Explorers program. He later served as Keyote, the coyote mascot for the Frederick Keys, a Minor League Baseball team.

But "in all my years of mascoting, it's never really happened before," said Cullen, referring to his coming out from undercover. "I always strived to stay secret. The mascot is supposed to be the focus, not the person in the suit."

Cullen, a psychology major, had plenty of fun as Rooney, pumping up crowds at games, supporting the College at other events. Even the potentially dicey moments weren't so bad.

Once, "I was out on the field and the music just cut out, right in the middle of dancing," he said. "I just did a bow and made a quick exit."

Cullen is taking a year off now, working to earn a little money before pursuing graduate studies. Would Cullen mascot again?

"Honestly, I would love to do it again at some point," he said. "It is a lot of fun, it really is."