The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday December 4th

Push-Up Guy Pumps Up Crowd

When six points are added to the score of UNC's football team, Wayne Cottrell knows it's time to get ready.

Five to eight male cheerleaders in Carolina-blue uniforms gather near the band, grab a plywood board, lower it so Cottrell can get on and hoist him up high above their heads for the crowd to see.

As UNC fans go crazy and shout, "One ... two ... three," Cottrell's arms lower and raise his body on the crowd's calls, doing push-ups to match the number of points the Tar Heels have racked up.

The higher they count, the louder it gets, as the marching band strikes a note with every number.

Cottrell is UNC's "push-up guy," and he loves every second of it.

"It's just fun being up there. I am center stage," said Cottrell, a senior co-captain of the UNC cheerleading squad. "The students are there, the band is there and the spotlight is on me for a second."

And Cottrell, a journalism and mass communication major, knew he wanted the position before he even donned a uniform. "Before I even started cheering, I saw a guy doing push-ups at another school," he said. "I thought to myself, 'It would be cool to do that, be up in front of so many people with them all going crazy.'"

When the last push-up guy quit at the beginning of the 1999 football season, Cottrell got his chance to find out if the job was all he thought it would be. "We were at a game and the coach just said, 'OK, you do the push-ups now.' I was nervous and I just kept on hoping I wouldn't fall off," he said.

Assistant cheerleading coach Jim Paddison said Cottrell's energy made him perfect for the job. "Wayne gets up there, has a big smile, waves his arms and really gets the crowd into it," he said.

A year after his selection, Cottrell realizes the job takes more than a spirited personality.

"Being up there on that board is a big obstacle," he said. "When it rains, the board is slippery, and right now there is a crack in it. If no one holds it up under the middle, it could break, and I'd fall straight through."

And even in fair weather, there is no guarantee of an easy performance. The varying heights of the cheerleaders can make for a wobbly platform.

"It is kind of like doing push-ups on a boat, in the middle of a big storm," he said.

Being the push-up guy makes him a target for jokes.

"The best part about it for me is looking into the crowd. But when my whole fraternity is sitting in front of me, they'll start chanting something like, 'Wayne is a pansy.' Then the whole crowd joins in," Cottrell said.

But neither the taunting nor the physical demands of the job keep him from his celebratory push-ups.

Cottrell did 70 push-ups in the game against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The amount of push-ups Cottrell must do varies depending on the score, and he usually has enough time between sets to rest. But his arms still have to lift and support the weight of other cheerleaders in stunts.

Cottrell knows the job can become demanding if the score starts to rise. He saw it happen during his first year cheering. "We kept on scoring back to back. (The push-up guy) was so tired they had to practically bounce him off the board," he said. "I have been pretty lucky so far."

No matter how high the score might climb or what the spectators are chanting, Cottrell said he loves his job.

"The crowd gets so pumped, and they come to expect it after they see it once. After a touchdown, they always look over to where I am," he said.

The experience of being UNC's push-up guy is something he will never forget, Cottrell said. "This is definitely something I will tell my kids about. It'll prove to them I did do something crazy when I was young."

The Features Editor can be reached

at features@unc.edu.


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