Not only can Alderson reminisce about being TTU’s first mascot in 1961, he will have bragging rights for wearing the uniform once again as Awesome Eagle for Homecoming 2012.
“To me, once I had dressed in the costume, I was the Golden Eagle mascot,” said Alderson. “It was not Max Alderson dressed for Halloween or for a costume party, I became a majestic creature that represented a tradition that began in 1925 with the selection of the Golden Eagle as a mascot.”
Alderson’s memory of his first appearance as the TTU Golden Eagle is as sharp as if it were yesterday. Alderson and Tech cheerleaders John Peters and Leslie “Sam” Stuart had a spur-of-the-moment idea to have a mascot for the annual Turkey Day game on Thanksgiving against Middle Tennessee State College, now Middle Tennessee State University.
The trio borrowed a papier mache eagle’s head from a Homecoming float constructed by the industrial technology department. Constructed of chicken wire, Alderson said the eagle mask was just large enough to fit over his head, but they had to trim the wires inside to keep from scratching his face. With little clearance inside the mask, and no holes for eyes, the only way to see was to look straight down.
Alderson was chosen to wear the outfit, complete with a football uniform and shoulder pads that coach Wilburn Tucker provided. Alderson had to attach the eagle head to the jersey with two safety pins.
“Once the head was secured, it wobbled whenever I made any quick, jerky movements, like walking,” Alderson said.
On game day in Murfreesboro, Peters and Stuart were Alderson’s handlers, as Alderson could not see much except his feet.
“I heard someone say, ‘let’s go,’ and at that moment John and Sam, one on each side of me, grabbed an arm, and off we went at full speed,” recalls Alderson. “I was looking at the ground and hoping beyond hope that I would not fall and look like a real idiot. More significantly, 30 or 40 guys with football cleats were following me, and I had no desire to be trampled in the stampede.
“By some miracle, we made it across the entire field, from the field house to the cheering section.”
Tech won the game 7-6, a good omen for the mascot that Tucker had agreed to, Alderson said, because “he thought anything to boost school spirit would help the team.”
Alderson went on to be the Golden Eagle mascot for the 1962 and 1963 football seasons. Larry Brown wore the costume for the basketball games. Alderson always had two escorts, Keith Uffelmann and Bill Powell, in case a prankster tried to jerk off the eagle head.
Alderson will return to campus this weekend with other TTU alumni and the greater Cookeville community to celebrate all the Homecoming festivities. Details on homecoming activities are here.
Campus visitors are welcome to peek into TTU’s history in the library archives during an open house in Angelo & Jennette Volpe Library room 100. Photos, artifacts and memorabilia from Tech’s nearly 100-year history will be on display from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3.
TTU will mark modern history at 9:30 Friday morning with the investiture of its ninth president, Philip Oldham, at Hooper Eblen Center. About 1,200 students, faculty, staff and friends of the university are expected to join that celebration.
On Friday evening, four alumni will be inducted into the TTU Sports Hall of Fame.
Those being inducted are Ken Fults, football; Janet Holt, basketball; Grant Swallows, football; and Randy Smith, tennis student-athlete and coach and administrator.
The Homecoming parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, starting at Hobby Lobby on Jefferson Ave. and proceeding down Dixie Ave., through the heart of campus and to Tucker Stadium. Tailgating will open at 11 a.m. near Tucker Stadium, and the game against Eastern Illinois University will begin at 1:30 p.m.
And at halftime, Maxwell Alderson will be the “Awesome” Golden Eagle one more time.