Students at the University of South Carolina have a special relationship with their mascot, Cocky. Cocky was introduced to the university in 1980, and students anonymously take on his identity to keep his legacy alive throughout the years.
When it comes time for the students who take on Cocky's identity to graduate, they reveal their hidden identities by wearing Cocky's feet at graduation. The Daily Gamecock anonymously interviewed Cocky to give the speechless bird a voice.
Cocky said he has developed great nonverbal communication by answering fans' questions without using words.
The question Cocky is asked most often is, “Is it hot in there?” to which Cocky responds: “Yes, it is hot — very, very hot.”
Cocky gets a break from warm outdoor appearances when he attends other events, such as weddings, birthday parties, polar plunges or wherever he is requested. Cocky said that is one of his favorite parts of the job.
Cocky said the best part of his job is interacting with fans.
"Every time you're out there you’re going to make someone’s day," he said. "Everyone loves Cocky."
Through his appearances, Cocky gets the chance to meet celebrities and alumni such as Stephon Gilmore, A'ja Wilson, D.J. Swearinger and Darius Rucker.
Beyond just being too warm in his uniform, being an SEC mascot comes with other challenges. Becoming Cocky is a very secretive process, and once a student earns the job, it can be very difficult to balance classes, a social life and Cocky obligations all while keeping it a secret.
Cocky stays organized so he can balance his responsibilities.
“It’s super fun to keep Cocky a secret because it’s a great surprise at graduation, but in some situations, I have to tell a little fib. I make up excuses and keep the secret on the low, while hiding Cocky’s accessories around the house,” Cocky said.
While Cocky said he loves to appear at sporting events, COVID-19 reduced his usual appearances, leaving him without much fan interaction.
Cocky said everyone's safety is his highest priority, and through the pandemic, he has gotten to see how dedicated the fans are, which is "just awesome."
However, Cocky has had time to come up with creative ways to interact with fans. Making signs for birthdays and weddings that he cannot physically attend has been a way Cocky has tried to keep in touch with his fans, he said. Some signs even end up on social media due to their creative flare.
“This season for basketball, I’ve had a lot of fun with using a whiteboard to write down either some sort of a joke or a meme … or playing like, hangman or tic-tac-toe with the fans,” Cocky said.
The lucky students who are Cocky eventually have to graduate. Cocky said thinking about graduation is bittersweet. To the graduating class of 2021, Cocky has a few words of wisdom.
"I'd say to take that passion and that devotion that I've seen at sporting events ... the fans and how hard they cheer for the Gamecocks ... take that into your future endeavors and just keep that focus and love for everything you do," Cocky said.
This Cocky will soon strut his spurs on the graduation stage.
“It kind of feels like I’m leaving behind a piece of myself in a way, but, at the same time, it has been an honor to contribute to the legacy of Cocky — there’s been so many great ones that have come before. And it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity, and I can’t thank this university enough for what it has done for me,” Cocky said.