The man behind the Knight Armor

Image courtesy of GNN

Image courtesy of GNN

The sun goes down and the lights come on. It’s Friday Night Lights at Grady stadium and Grady’s football team prepares to take on their opponent. The fans of each team are eager with anticipation. The whistle blows, signifying the kickoff, and the Grady fans go wild. One man runs up and down the Grady Knights sideline in full armor, sword raised high in the air, pumping up the crowd. The man behind the armor is sophomore Seth Cullen, Grady’s mascot.

Cullen started as the mascot his freshman year and he plans on continuing to be the school’s ‘spirit leader’ until he graduates in two years.

“I chose to be the Grady mascot because nobody else was, and I just felt like I could do something around here to bring school spirit,” Cullen said.

The mascot position had never been a truly student formalized position until Cullen took the job.

“When I first got here in ‘99 there was an old man who would dress up and go to the football games and he had this sword and he’d run back and forth on the track,” art teacher John Brandhorst said. “Prior to that there was a man who would actually ride on a horse out on the football field and so he was more what we invision knights to be like from the movies. Of course they don’t let horses on the field anymore.”

The importance of the mascot for a school like Grady is not just to boost spirit, but to help enact a sense of community for students and teachers.

“I really think the mascot sends the message that even though we might not want to be here, we are here and we are all together and we should just enjoy our experience while we are here,” Cullen said.

Cullen mostly does home games and occasionally another sporting or school sponsored event throughout the year along with all the pep rallies.

“I’m very self-run,” Cullen said. “I get to choose whatever I want to do.

The mascot position has no teacher sponsor. However, Brandhorst has helped Cullen get more involved with Grady’s entertainment and has helped with some wardrobe changes.

“He is in my set design class, theatre tech 2, and he came up having been operating as the school mascot for a while using the old uniform we had around,” Brandhorst said. “We were able to purchase a brand new mascot outfit that he was to wear, and we got him to collaborate more closely with Mr. Cook and the band. The mascot and the band and the cheerleaders are all part of the spirit machine of the school so it is important that they all work in collaboration.”

Cullen is helping shape Grady’s spirit for years to come.

“[Having a mascot] helps provide [the dynamics of Grady],” AP seminar teacher Mario Herrera said. “It’s really hard for an urban school to have the same type of school spirit as maybe a suburban or rural school because in a suburban and rural community the school is the centerpoint of community engagement and in the city there are hundreds of them. I think it is a little more difficult to get the same type of school spirit, but having a mascot definitely helps with that.”

Grady is looking to become something bigger for the future generations that will be a part of it. That includes being able to constantly add new things.

“I am very proud to be in a place where school spirit is addressed overtly like this,” Brandhorst said. “We still get to invent things. This is not a situation where we are not blinded by heritage. It is fun to still contribute to the authorship of what it means to do this [be the mascot] and as the school evolve[s] that is an unnecessary conversation to say ‘how do we have to keep changing?’”

Cullen believes that his duties as the mascot are important, but his personality may not be that of your stereotypical mascot.

“To be honest, I’m not the most [energetic] person. I do not have the most school spirit out of any person,” Cullen said. “I just try and get everybody cheered up and get everybody together to unite the crowd.”

The moment the helmet touches Cullen’s head, his personality takes a more spirited turn.

“When I put on the costume I’m a completely different person than I am usually wearing my regular clothing,” Cullen said.