Mississippi State University junior Ross Berry crowdsurfs as Bully the bulldog during the 2017 football game against LSU. Berry will don the Bully suit during MSU's bowl game this year against Louisville. Photo by: Courtesy photo
December 28, 2017 10:05:29 AM
Enthusiasm, loyalty, spirit, pride.
That's what Bully the bulldog means to Mississippi State University, according to Leah Beasley, the school's senior associate athletic director over external affairs.
Beasley said a certain responsibility comes with being the university's mascot. As the suits have changed over the years, Bully's significance has only grown.
"You're the physical manifestation of spirit for the school," said MSU junior Ross Berry, one of seven current students who don the furry head and wide-shouldered bulldog suit year round for sports events and other public appearances.
Berry and his roommate Bailey Pulliam, also a junior, will sport Bully suits Saturday during MSU's TaxSlayer Bowl game in Jacksonville, Florida, against the University of Louisville. A third student, Katherine Johnson, will dress as Bully for pre-game festivities.
"Every game is split into shifts," Berry said. "Same Bully, different people."
Berry and Pulliam expect Saturday's bowl game to be similar to other regular season away games they've attended but with a more competitive air.
This will be Berry's first ever bowl game to attend, let alone his first as the face of MSU. Pulliam attended State's St. Petersburg Bowl appearance last year, so he has an idea of what to expect.
The Bulldogs won that game 17-16 over Miami, Ohio, blocking a last-second field goal attempt to seal the victory.
"Playing a team you don't always get to play was pretty exciting," Pulliam said. "There were people there who had never seen Bully in person before, so having people come up to you is really cool. Being shown love from people even when you're traveling six hours from home is awesome."
Berry, Pulliam and Johnson rode with the cheer squad Wednesday as the group traveled by bus to Florida.
This year, Beasley said, Bully will attend the dog walk and a pep rally prior to the game.
"When our team makes appearances, our mascot will be there," she added.
Beasley said MSU's marketing department is also trying to set up interviews for Bully on morning shows in Florida.
"Bully is an incredible tool to broaden our reach and the Mississippi State brand," she said. "All of our mascots understand that, and they're very willing to take on that responsibility."
Life in the Suit
For a mascot, there's no feeling down.
"When you're in suit, you have to realize, regardless of whether you're winning or losing, you have to stay positive, and you have to keep other people positive," Pulliam said.
Berry and Pulliam agree Bully has to be bigger than himself and said they carry themselves differently when they're in the suit.
"Bully has this really confident air about him," Pulliam said. "He's got this swagger."
When Pulliam puts on the suit, he becomes an entertainer, and now that he knows what to expect from a bowl game, he can focus on his performance.
"You want to make people laugh, make people smile and get them to cheer on our team," he said.
The mannerisms of Bully, though, don't always come naturally, Beasley said.
"They go through training that teaches them to perform as one member and one tone, and Bully definitely does have a tone," she said. "I think a lot of folks think of someone getting in a suit and going out and parading, but what people may not know is that there's actually training going on behind the scenes."
That training includes weekly mascot sessions and critiques.
They might also take advice from other mascots, because as Berry said, they're in a groupchat with more than 600 furry creatures and famous faces from other NCAA schools.
Berry and Pulliam have been groomed for the big stage, and as Pulliam states, Bully's "always camera ready."
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