Thousands of enthusiastic students and fans fill campus athletic venues for UNC sports events, but senior Daniel Wood has a very different view than the rest.
For the past four years, he has cheered on the Tar Heels through the mask of the University's beloved mascot, Rameses.
In March 2018, Wood attended tryouts to be UNC's mascot.
On April 12, he got an email while sitting in his AP language and literature class, holding a message he had been waiting for: He was officially a part of the "ramily."
“I knew I wanted to do this in college wherever I went,” Wood said. “I was kind of an odd bird when it comes to this kind of thing.”
When he officially became Rameses, Wood had to keep it a secret. But his roommates had cracked the code.
They'd noticed he had the Rameses costume and was attending a plethora of UNC sporting events. Wood eventually had to come clean, and his close friends knew not to reveal his identity.
"It's really cool just hearing him talk about all the behind the scenes stuff and just kind of how mascotting works, in general," Harrison Reeves, who has lived with Wood since sophomore year, said. "A lot of stuff that I really wouldn't have thought about."
During his time as Rameses, Wood attended many events beyond sports as well, including appearances at hospitals, birthday parties and charity events.
“Those are the events that really matter,” he said. “And if you can't enjoy it for just those jobs and for those events, you don't deserve to be able to go to the national championship and the Final Four, bowl games, any of it. You got to do both.”
In his final year as Rameses, Wood traveled to New Orleans to attend both the NCAA men's basketball Final Four and championship games.
Traveling for March Madness included spending hours in the Rameses costume each day, Wood said. Whether on the court, filming promotional videos or leading pep rallies — there was always something going on.
“That was the biggest game ever,” he said. “And for those kinds of things, you don't have to dig deep — that energy flows.”
In addition to traveling for the NCAA Tournament games, Wood also made the trip to New York City to appear on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
“March Madness was the best month of my life with getting to go everywhere,” he said. “It started right at the end of the season — Michael Jordan came to one of the men's basketball games. I fist-bumped Michael Jordan and Jimmy Fallon in the same month. Like, that's pretty up there.”
Though Wood loved his time as Rameses, not every step of his journey through UNC was filled with cheering fans and championship games.
He came to UNC expecting to study business administration. However, after realizing his interests didn’t align with the major, he began to reevaluate his position at the University.
“I had a long conversation and thought process with myself about transferring and leaving UNC,” Wood said. “But it was the friends that I had on the Ram Team. It was the former mascots that made me feel like I had friends here and brought me in. They're like my big siblings.”
Wood will pass on the role of Rameses to someone new next season, but he isn’t quite leaving the Ram Team yet.
After Commencement this spring, he will become UNC’s mascot coach — the first one ever at the University.
Director of Spirit Programs Brown Walters said that he is ecstatic to have Wood join the team.
“I have never approached a mascot and asked them to stay with us beyond their four years or beyond graduation,” Walters said. “I asked him to stay involved with our program because I think he is that good at what he does. So, we’ve actually created a position for him that we’ve never had before.”
As Wood transitions into his new leadership role, there will always be a piece of him that stays with the Rameses community.
“He's been the biggest thing to me to this point,” Wood said. “He's given me meaning, allowed me to connect with thousands of people that, whether it's across small events, football games or whatever, there's a memory that's being made and it's a real privilege to be a part of that.”
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