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Zero Days To K-State Football: Willie The Wildcat

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This is it folks, the end of the countdown. We are at t minus zero. Kick-off day is at hand, and thus, the countdown officially concludes. But before we put an end to our 100-day series, there’s one last entry to include: the man who wears the number zero, Willie the Wildcat (thanks to reader Cory Ramsey for the suggestion).

Willie the Wildcat cannot be tamed or controlled, but has mellowed over the years to allow fans to enjoy his presence on game days and special events around campus. He also grew up confused. K-State’s first mascot, from 1906-19009, was actually a black Labrador named Boscoe, appearing at baseball and football games. However, “The Boscoes” didn’t quite stick and the mascot underwent, err, species reassignment surgery in 1915 when football coach John Bender nicknamed the team the “Wildcats.”

The Wildcat theme didn’t last long, and paying homage to the school’s history as a land grant university, all of the school’s teams were renamed “The Aggies” in 1917. However, Coach Charles Bachman realized this was an awful idea, and, worried that a program nicknamed “The Aggies” might become a bunch of Benedict Arnolds, going laughably 6-6 in their last year in the Big 12 before leaving for the SEC some century later, he reversed the nicknamed back the “The Wildcats.” The school realized that this was solid, and never changed again.

Willie The Wildcat was originally bred to rip the heads off of birds – literally. From 1922-1978, a real bobcat was present at games (and kept at the Manhattan Zoo otherwise. Quick deviating rant re: the Manhattan Zoo: how awesome is it that a place the size of Manhattan can support this gem? The Sunset Zoo should be a serious point of pride for the area). The cat was named Touchdown, and saw 11 incarnations. The first Touchdown was the most badass. After being captured in Idaho, he was eventually donated and set to be shipped to Manhattan, but got in a fight with a porcupine and died of the injuires it incurred before ever making it to the game. Thus, Touchdown II was the first officially present “wildcat.”

It was eventually determined that Touchdown needed a companion, and in 1947 the school unveiled “Sparky.” Sparky looked nothing like Willie, and resembled Touchdown more than anything with a brownish coloration and black stripes. Willie first debuted in 1964 in the now recognizable purple tones, and had ears about the size of the satellite dish I grew up with as a kid. Willie underwent a bit of a transformation over the next 15 years, growing from a cartoonish character to a decidedly fiesty-looking cat. A few different heads were featured, and he became fiercer as the years went on.

The last changes to Willie were exhibited in 1997, with gray fur and two stripes that, if you examine it, resemble the Powercat logo. Willie’s neck is hella-strong, as he carries a five-pound head around all day. He’s also been known to play dress up, with a uniform matching whatever sport he shows up at.

Willie the Wildcat is the dude you want to go to a rock concert with. His ridiculously strong neck can probably headbang all night long. And if someone gets nasty in the pit, Willie can protect you – he does a push-up for every point whenever the football scores (and if you’ve been following the team recently, you know that’s a lot of points). Plus he loves to crowd surf the student section, and will glide atop the concert-goers all night long is given the chance. Yes, Willie is the greatest rock concert attendee ever (although his own attempt to pursue a career as a muscician was decidedly misguided. Hey, Ron Prince made fools of a lot of us back then).

So that’s it folks. I’ve had some fun times putting these countdown articles together, from the good (Bill Snyder’s Hiring) to the bad (the series record with Oklahoma) to the downright ugly (seriously, if you haven’t already, you need to read about The Toilet Bowl). Now it’s time to stock the fridge and count the minutes to the start of the season. EMAW!

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Tags: Basketball Countdown Football K-State Kansas State Mascot Willie Wildcat

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