Bruiser bares all: The hidden six behind the mask

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Skye Duncan | Lariat Photographer

By Sergio Legorreta

Baylor game days can be hot with cheering fans enduring temperatures well into the 90s and sometimes the 100s.

But six spirited individuals dedicate themselves to running, jumping, high-fiving and cheering in 15-pound suits that add an additional 20 to 30 degrees of heat. They are the Baylor mascots. They are Bruiser the Bear.

Waco senior Brandon Manuppelli, one of the two mascot captains, said he enjoys being Bruiser so much that he doesn’t even feel the heat.

“There’s definitely a kick of adrenaline,” Manuppelli said. “I don’t even realize how hot it is sometimes.”

That doesn’t mean the mascots aren’t prepared for the heat, however. To make sure they don’t get dehydrated, they make sure to drink a lot of water. Richmond sophomore Lindsey Henrici, one of the mascots this semester, said she drinks a lot of water the day before the game and the day of the game.

“I’m sweating so much, it’s 125 degrees in the suit, and I can’t wipe the sweat away,” Manuppelli said. “You can’t really wear a headband, either. We found that they slowly slide down and cover your eyes.”

Manuppelli said he’s learned to deal with sweat in his eyes, which can burn at times, but he has a hard time seeing when he’s inside the suit. Mascots have to look through the narrow mouth of the mask and Bruiser’s teeth block their sight even more.

“It’s difficult to see,” Manuppelli said. “There are times I’ll miss a high-five or I won’t see a kid.”

Being Bruiser can bring positive opportunities as well. Manuppelli said since becoming a mascot, he has met a lot of other mascots and forged friendships with them.

“When we see each other, it’s like catching up with old friends,” Manuppelli said.

Manuppelli has been Bruiser for two years now and said he hopes to continue as Bruiser for one more year if he enters graduate school because of all the great experiences he’s had.

“There are so many great moments,” Manuppelli said. “I was able to give George and Laura Bush a hug at McLane Stadium for the coin toss.”

Manuppelli also said one of his favorite moments was recreating a picture posted in the locker room, where one of the first Bruisers stood atop a human pyramid.

“For homecoming in 2013, I got on top of a pyramid of cheerleaders, about 20 feet off the ground,” Manuppelli said. “We practiced first, but it was frightening. Bruiser’s sneakers are as big as some of the cheerleaders’ backs and there’s little room for error.”

The stunt went off without a hitch during homecoming and Manuppelli said he has a picture of it framed. Everything doesn’t always go as smoothly, however. While practicing the stunt, Manuppelli fell sideways and landed on top of a cheerleader.
“I was fine, but he might have gotten a bit bruised,” Manuppelli said.

A different incident happened earlier this year at Dr Pepper Hour when Henrici went to hug President and Chancellor Ken Starr.

“I accidentally knocked my head off,” Henrici said. “I covered my face. Someone screamed, ‘It’s a girl!’”

It is ironic that this happened to Henrici, as she said that one of the reasons she enjoys being a mascot so much is that she can entertain others without others knowing who she is.

“I enjoy making people smile and laugh but don’t ever like to feel like I’m doing it just to receive personal attention for myself,” Henrici said.

Henrici also said being a woman adds a challenge to being Bruiser, even if no one can see her under the suit.

“It’s hard to get the walk down,” Henrici said. “I’m more girly than I should be, because Bruiser is very manly.”

Manuppelli said mascots practice their movements and walk to make sure everyone shows Bruiser’s personality in the same way.

“Bruiser definitely has a walk,” Manuppelli said. “His chest is up and he knows where he’s going. Movements have to be bigger.”

Beyond the benefits and challenges, Henrici and Manuppelli said what is important about Bruiser is the people they interact with. Henrici said Bruiser helps to bring everyone together, as Bruiser gives a face to Baylor.

Bringing people together and making sure everyone has high spirits can definitely be important.

Senior defensive back Collin Brence said Bruiser helps motivate the fans throughout the game.

“The energy of the crowd is huge for momentum,” Brence said. “Anyway he can get the crowd more excited, it’s helping us as a team. He’s an important part of the team.”