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Behind the mask with Pouncer


Pouncer the Tiger has paraded around sporting events, taking pictures with past, present and future Tigers and embodying the spirit of the University of Memphis for more than 50 years. Though Pouncer is a celebrity in Memphis, many people don't consider what it takes to put on such a show and who the man is under the mask.

The current Pouncer has been the mascot for the past two years, starting when he was a freshman. He says he somewhat inherited the spot from his brother, who was the mascot for the four years prior.

"The mascot is the essence of the whole shebang. I'm there to represent the spirit of the team. I take pictures with kids - to them, I'm like an idol," Pouncer said. "People get excited to see me, even though I don't think I can really influence the game, but I still like to think people come there to see me."

The mascot is there for entertainment and also as a morale booster, cheering the team on even in the midst of the Tiger's greatest defeats. The sophomore mascot says that though there is a lot of stress involved with being Pouncer, there are also some perks.

"I get to see the behind the scenes of all the games and how they get everything together - the cameras, the practices, the routines," Pouncer said. "I've also traveled a bunch while being with the Tigers, and of course, there is a pretty nice scholarship that goes with being the mascot."

The 19-year-old man behind the tiger prefers to keep his identity under wraps, saying it might take away from the spirit of the now half-century-old Pouncer, who has now been the U of M's official mascot since 1960.

"I don't really tell many people I'm Pouncer. I'd feel like I was bragging, and it'd kind of take away from the performance," said Pouncer. "If everyone knows it's you and you're doing all the crazy stuff, it's kind of weird."

Along with Pouncer, the University also sports another tiger, that is a little bit more frightening, as its mascot. Since 1972 the U of M has had three live tigers, all named TOM in sequential order. In 2008, after the passing of TOM II, the University adopted TOM III to represent the school alongside his more animated counterpart, Pouncer.

"People ask me all the time if I'm related to the tiger, I just say, 'Well, kind of, I guess,'" said Pouncer. "I feel like I look a lot friendlier than TOM, more approachable for sure. Pouncer is definitely better than TOM."

The suit has been estimated to get about 30 degrees hotter than the temperature outside, providing a near-sauna like experience for the constantly moving mascot.

"It gets very hot in that suit. A couple of games ago, I passed out from the heat in the suit and got rushed to the hospital," Pouncer said. "It's rough - you pretty much have quilts stapled together around you."

Pouncer says he is looking forward to basketball season for a handful of reasons - shorter games, indoor temperatures and because the team is more likely to win. However, he also notes that there are some major differences between football arenas and basketball stadiums.

"There's not that much room to stand at the games, so you're constantly moving, because you're blocking somebody's view," Pouncer said. "You have to walk around, give high fives and take pictures with people, all while still cheering on the team and entertaining the audience."

The anonymous student behind the mask is looking forward to continuing the Pouncer tradition.


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