Rocky the Red Hawk has become a large symbol of school spirit throughout the years at Montclair State University. However, what goes on behind the scenes to establish a team dedicated to campus pride?
Team Rocky was assembled in 2015 by Rocky’s head of operations, who are in charge of handling requests from students, clubs and events.
With the assemble of Team Rocky, Rocky the Red Hawk’s official birthday is considered Oct. 5. This year, Rocky officially turns 17 years old.
Due to an oath taken by the member(s) in Team Rocky, their identity is to remain anonymous. It is preferred for Rocky to maintain anonymity to be gender neutral.
The handler(s) of Rocky are usually students who ask the person in the suit whether they need water, provide the time and if the person in the Rocky costume needs a break from an event.
“I am both Rocky and the handler,” the inside source from Team Rocky said.
Rocky requires specific height dimensions, where the minimum height 5’8 and the maximum height is 6’2, according to the inside source.
“We each have our own signals to give to our handlers,” the inside source said. “I would tap my wrist twice, which means, ‘What time is it,’ or if I need a break, I’d point two fingers in the air, which means, ‘Go’.”
While Rocky might be portrayed as a male hawk to the student body, it does not mean he is not gender inclusive. He is worn by members of Team Rocky that consists of students who identify as female, gender-neutral and transgender.
Requests for Rocky are made on HawkSync and have been increasingly growing in the recent years.
“So far in 2017-2018, Rocky has appeared at over 260 on-campus events and appears off-campus,” said Director of Student Communications, Student Development and Campus Life Cindy Meneghin.
Meneghin mentioned that before Team Rocky, Rocky only appeared a couple dozen times on campus.
Rocky has appeared at two alumni weddings, commencement, the Fourth of July parade in Montclair Township, other mascots’ birthdays, various high schools for college fairs and has even handed out acceptance letters.
In a 2016 article, “Mascots: Where are all the Women?”, published by former sports editor Emma Cimo, there was mention that Rocky could have a potential little brother or sister which can provide more spirit to the campus.
Per the previous article, Meneghin stated that including another mascot would be received very positively by students. Although, during the time of the article, there were not any concrete plans in the works.
“There has been [a] conversation over the years of extending Rocky’s family and there is a smaller suit,” Meneghin said. “It is sometimes used [for] holidays and/or special events. There are no plans, at this time, for additional characters.”
Many Team Rocky members have witnessed the smaller suit.
“We called the small Rocky, ‘creepy baby Rocky or Ricky,'” a member from Team Rocky said.
Rocky’s suit underwent many changes throughout the years. Meneghin mentioned that the students voted for the skin color of the latest Rocky mascot suit.
“Students voted in favor of the brown suit so ‘red’ Rocky is only used for Halloween fun now,” Meneghin said. “[Now] the shirt says Montclair State University instead of MSU, and Rocky has feet with sneakers instead of the shoe spats.”
Meneghin also explained the intricacies to Rocky’s outfit.
“When Rocky wears his feet, he only wears a shirt [that’s] either red or white but with no shorts,” Meneghin said. “But when he wears his sneakers, he wears his shorts and his shirt, and the shorts alternate between red and white.”
Rocky has a dedicated Snapchat, @RockytheRedHawk, where he currently holds surprise giveaways for students all over campus.
“We have a dedicated social committee who handles all of the social media accounts,” the anonymous Team Rocky member said. “There’s about 3-4 of them, but everyone can take charge of Rocky’s Snapchat account.”
Since many students are commuters, this is a quick way to participate in campus life, meet with their school mascot and receive free Montclair State gear on the go.
However, some students, like senior public relations major Dominick Paramonte, do not believe that Team Rocky is doing enough for the community.
“I don’t know what he does for school spirit besides go around and shake hands,” Paramonte said. “It’s not helping everyone, very little to very few people.”
On the other hand, junior television and digital media major Alejandro Arceoand believes Rocky is an important asset to the school’s spirit.
“Rocky can lift the spirits of any audience,” Arceo said. “Whenever I see Rocky at [school], events people get more excited. They always shout Rocky’s [name].”