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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Share Tales of Life Behind Mascot's Mask

By Jermaine Caldwell

Features Editor

Each Saturday during football season, Paul Holshouser or Stu Williams accepts the challenge of completing an important job.

The task requires getting dressed up in a heavy, hot and motion-restricting costume to portray a silent character with just body language.

Before the end of the day, Holshouser or Williams will have spent hours spreading school spirit to thousands of cheering and screaming fans.

Holshouser and Williams play the part of Ramses, UNC's mascot. "It's still just kind of like, wow," said Williams, a junior from Garner who was a cheerleader before taking the job this year. "People are looking at me the whole time."

And since it is all eyes on Ramses, the two are in charge of parading around the football field, dancing, leading cheers, playing with kids and interacting with fans.

Holshouser, a junior from Gold Hill, started his stint as Ramses last year at the Clemson football game.

And though he never looked back, Holshouser found difficulty in adjusting to the job. "It's a tough thing to do," he said. "At the beginning it takes a lot."

Both students must handle the rigors of spending up to four hours in a three-layer costume that Holshouser said can add about 40 degrees of heat.

Williams said the eyeholes of the mascot do not allow for much peripheral vision, but he enjoys the reaction of the crowd when he falls.

The suit's large feet do not make their job any easier, though. "Walking up and down the steps at Kenan is always an adventure," Williams said.

But both mascots will agree that correctly depicting Ramses' persona begins with the walk. "It's a big, tough walk," Holshouser said, describing how he swings his arms and bobs his head in exaggerated motions. "You get the walk right and you go from there."

Beyond the walk, other sideline antics are mostly made up on the fly. "It's 99 percent improv," Williams said.

And Holshouser said he learned the techniques by diving in to mix. "I just learned it trial by fire," he said.

At home football games, Holshouser and Williams split the game, each spending a half as Ramses. But at away games, just one of the students plays the part.

And Holshouser said he believes this chance to travel to the different playing sites is one of the best perks to being the mascot. "It's a pretty fun experience. The trips are a lot of fun," he said.

The veteran also said that coming back on the trips tired and without a shower is the worst part of the job.

Regardless of the site, Williams quickly noted the worst part of being the mascot. "Being dehydrated," he said.

Being the mascot also requires the wearer to store and clean the suit. "We have a pretty good relationship with Febreze," Williams said.

But he said he knows the good aspects of being mascot far outweigh the bad ones. "Everybody focuses on you, and you kind of bring everything together," Williams said. "Being the symbol of the school and the center of attention - it's pretty cool."

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Holshouser said this job is perfect for him as an avid follower of UNC athletics. "It's a fun thing to do and be inside of the game - being on the field, being courtside," he said. "We grew up massive Carolina fans."

Ramses also appears at men's and women's basketball games once football season ends. And when the two are not covering athletic games, they dust off the suit for UNC activities, such as Fall Fest and community-related events.

Williams said the feeling he gets from dressing up as Ramses week in and week out is what will keep him coming back for more until he graduates.

"You're doing something for your school," he said. "I love being out there in the midst of everything. You bring people together."

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