The Story Behind Every NFL Mascot

The Story Behind Every NFL Mascot

The National Football League of 2019 might be nearly unrecognizable to those who founded it a 100 years ago. Today’s NFL is a slick and sophisticated money-making machine that has become the pre-eminent sports league in the United States, a stark contrast to the unsparing, smash-mouth sport of a century ago. As part of the league’s relentless marketing efforts and community outreach, NFL teams use mascots to connect with their fan bases.

To find out the story behind each NFL mascot, 24/7 Tempo reviewed media sources such as ESPN, as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the websites of NFL teams. All but four NFL teams — Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins — have mascots representing their teams.

Unlike college mascots, which have a longer and deeper connection with the universities they represent, most NFL mascots came on the scene within the last 25 years. Some mascots were adopted by teams after NFL Properties, the merchandising and licensing arm of the National Football League, developed characters as part of the Team NFL Heroes league-wide mascot program in the mid-1990s.

Mascots are used by teams to cultivate community relations and connect with younger fans, all efforts to avoid depleting their fan bases. These are the sports teams running out of fans.

Mascots are also a revenue source and can be booked for birthday parties and other events on a team’s website. Many mascots have developed their personas through their own Facebook pages and Twitter handles.

NFL mascots can be lovable or annoying, exuberant or aloof, shaggy-maned or jut-jawed. Some teams such as the Saints have more than one. Not all mascot launches have been successful. The Vikings had several misfires before settling on a comically hulking caricature named Viktor who has resonated with fans.

Some mascots have run afoul of the league and owners of other teams because of over-exuberant behavior on the field. Jaxson de Ville, the mascot of the Jacksonville Jaguars, drew the ire of Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian in 2007 over his on-field antics. The Carolina Panthers mascot overstepped a boundary in 1996 when during a game between the Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers he fell on a live ball following a punt. Mascot misconduct can stoke team rivalries. Here are the biggest rivalries in sports.

Source: U.S. Army / Deborah Marie Gibson, Phoenix Recruiting Battalion

1. Arizona Cardinals
>Mascot: Big Red
>When mascot debuted: 1998

At 100 years old, the Arizona Cardinals are one of the National Football League’s oldest franchises, though they’ve only had an official mascot since 1998. Big Red is a red cardinal-like bird figure. The original color of the team was a faded maroon, which was eventually called cardinal red.

Source: secdef / Flickr

2. Atlanta Falcons
>Mascot: Freddie Falcon
>When mascot was debuted: About 1984

Freddie Falcon became the Atlanta Falcons mascot in the mid-1980s. The team took the Falcons name following a contest to name the team after Atlanta was awarded an NFL franchise in 1965. Falcon was suggested by a school teacher who liked the name because “… the falcon is proud and dignified with great courage and fight.”

Source: ftmeade / Flickr

3. Baltimore Ravens
>Mascot: Poe
>When mascot was debuted: 1996

Poe is a raven and became the Baltimore Ravens mascot after Ravens was chosen by fans in a poll conducted by the Baltimore Sun. The name is in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, master of the macabre, who wrote his famous poem, “The Raven,” while living in Baltimore.

Source: Mark Konezny / NFLPhotoLibrary / Getty Images

4. Buffalo Bills
>Mascot: Billy Buffalo
>When mascot was debuted: 2000

Billy Buffalo debuted in 2000 at a Buffalo Bills home game in Orchard Park, New York. He is an 8-foot-tall blue American buffalo and wears uniform “number” BB. The Bills name is a reference to frontiersman and Wild West entertainer Buffalo Bill Cody.

Source: Blueboy96 / Wikimedia Commons

5. Carolina Panthers
>Mascot: Sir Purr
>When mascot was debuted: 1995

After Charlotte, North Carolina, was awarded an NFL franchise in 1995, Mark Richardson, the son of team owner Jerry Richardson, chose the team’s name and team colors of black, blue, and silver. The Panther mascot came into being the same year. The Panther mascot, wearing jersey number 00, stirred a bit of controversy in 1996 when during a game between the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers he fell on a live ball following a punt.

Source: blueyeda73 / Flickr

6. Chicago Bears
>Mascot: Staley Da Bear
>When mascot was debuted: 2003

The Chicago Bears, one of the charter members of the NFL, adopted Staley Da Bear as their mascot in 2003. The mascot takes its name from the team’s original sponsor, the Staley Starch Company. The Bears owe their name to owner George Halas, who figured that football players were bigger than baseball players, and since Chicago was home to baseball’s Cubs, Bears would be the logical name for the town’s professional football team.

Source: Tyler Barrick / Getty Images

7. Cincinnati Bengals
>Mascot: Who Dey
>When mascot was debuted: Unknown

Who Dey, the Cincinnati Bengals mascot, is a playful character clad in black and orange stripes who good-naturedly harasses the team’s rival mascot. Who Dey does not speak and communicates via pantomime. “Who Dey?!” is also the name of a chant shouted by fans of the Bengals.

Source: Joe Robbins / Getty Images

8. Cleveland Browns
>Mascot: Brownie the Elf
>When mascot was debuted: 2013

Brownie the Elf first appeared as a mascot for the Cleveland Browns in 2013, but his lineage goes farther back. He was the emblem of the Browns dating back to 1946, when the Browns were in the All-America Football Conference, before they joined the NFL. The Browns also have another mascot, Chomps, a reference to their fans who occupy the “dog pound” at home games. Chomps is a 6-foot-1-inch Labrador retriever who wears jersey number 00.

Source: Bigcats lair / Wikimedia Commons

9. Dallas Cowboys
>Mascot: Rowdy
>When mascot was debuted: 1996

Rowdy, the official mascot of the Dallas Cowboys, was developed by NFL Properties in the early 1990s as a character called Big D as part of the league’s mascot program. The Cowboys made him their official mascot in 1996 and changed his name to Rowdy.

Source: Jeffrey Beall / Wikimedia Commons

10. Denver Broncos
>Mascot: Thunder
>When mascot was debuted: 1993

Thunder II is the second generation of Arabian horses to serve as mascot for the Denver Broncos. The original Thunder debuted on Sept. 12, 1993, in a game against the San Diego Chargers. After each Denver touchdown, Thunder would gallop across the field. Denver also has another mascot, called Miles, an orange-maned and orange-tailed character who prowls the sidelines.

Source: Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

11. Detroit Lions
>Mascot: Roary
>When mascot was debuted: 1995

Roary is a lion-costumed mascot described on the Detroit Lions website as a fun-loving lion who provides food for needy families and teaches kids the importance of character education and being active.

Source: Mark Herreid / Shutterstock.com

12. Green Bay Packers
>Mascot: N/A
>When mascot was debuted: N/A

The Green Bay Packers, one of the oldest NFL franchises, do not have a mascot. They were named after two packing companies that eventually went out of business but the name remained.

Source: eschipul / Flickr

13. Houston Texans
>Mascot: Toro
>When mascot was debuted: 2001

According to the Houston Texans website, Toro was born on April 21, 2001, corresponding with the zodiac sign Taurus, or bull. Toro is clad in the Texans’ colors of red, white, and blue. Like many mascots, Toro has his own Facebook page and Twitter handle.

Source: U.S. Army Garrison / Hawaii Public Affairs

14. Indianapolis Colts
>Mascot: Blue
>When mascot was debuted: 2006

Blue, the blue colt who wears jersey number 00, was first introduced on Sept.17, 2006, at the Colts’ first home regular season game against the Houston Texans, which the Colts won, 43-24. The Colts were originally based in Baltimore and their name referenced the horse-breeding tradition in that area.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars
>Mascot: Jaxson de Ville
>When mascot was debuted: 1996

Jaxson de Ville has been the mascot of the Jacksonville Jaguars since their inception. The mascot wears sunglasses, a Jaguars jersey, long shorts, and black and teal sneakers and has been known to use a zip wire and bungee jump. His exuberance has gotten him into hot water and drew the ire of Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian. He also caused controversy in 2014 during the Ebola crisis when he carried a sign that said “Towels Carry Ebola,” along with a Terrible Towel, an emblem of the Jags’ opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Source: Conman33 / Wikimedia Commons

16. Kansas City Chiefs
>Mascot: K.C. Wolf
>When mascot was debuted: 1989

K.C. Wolf was first introduced in 1989 and was named after the team’s “Wolfpack,” the fans who sit in the bleachers. K.C. Wolf is portrayed by motivational speaker Dan Meers, who makes about 150 speaking engagements each year, talking to young people about being a buddy and not a bully, the importance of character, and eating healthful foods.

Source: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

17. Los Angeles Chargers
>Mascot: Boltman
>When mascot was debuted: 1995

Boltman was the unofficial mascot of the Los Angeles Chargers (formerly the San Diego Chargers), until Ramona, California, resident Dan Jauregui, who created the character, announced his retirement last year. Jauregui put his costume and the full intellectual property rights to the Boltman persona on eBay in July 2018 but got no takers.

Source: CASportsFan / Wikimedia Commons

18. Los Angeles Rams
>Mascot: Rampage
>When mascot was debuted: 2010

After several misfires trying to launch a mascot while they were still in St. Louis, including a fuzzy critter that looked like a rat, the Rams settled on a ram character who was named Rampage by fans. Rampage was introduced to the public by throwing out the first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game in July of 2010.

Source: Eliot J. Schechter / Getty Images

19. Miami Dolphins
>Mascot: T.D.
>When mascot was debuted: 1997

T.D., shorthand for The Dolphin, is also the name of the Miami Dolphins mascot. The 7-foot dolphin has been representing the Dolphins since 1997 when then-coach Jimmy Johnson “signed” the mascot as a free agent. An original dolphin mascot called Flipper, named after the beloved star of the 1960s television series of the same name, was trained to jump out of the water after each Miami touchdown.

Source: Michael Steele / Getty Images

20. Minnesota Vikings
>Mascot: Viktor
>When mascot was debuted: 2007

The Minnesota Vikings are another team that made several prior attempts at launching a mascot and eventually settled on Viktor, a muscle-bound, blond-haired, horned-helmet wearing character, in 2007. The mascot was developed to appeal to the team’s younger fan base.

Source: cnewtoncom / Flickr

21. New England Patriots
>Mascot: Pat Patriot
>When mascot was debuted: 1995

The New England Patriots, who joined the American Football League in 1960, adopted the Pat Patriot mascot, invoking the patriots who fought in the American Revolution. Those who don the mascot gear should perhaps ask for combat pay; at the last Pro Bowl, New York Jets safety Jamal Adams tackled an unsuspecting Pat Patriot for laughs and nearly injured him.

Source: Infrogmation of New Orleans / Wikimedia Commons

22. New Orleans Saints
>Mascot: Gumbo, Sir Saint
>When mascot was debuted: Gumbo (1998) Sir Saint (2009)

Gumbo, the mascot for the New Orleans Saints, is a St. Bernard puppy. The mascot is based on a real puppy given to the Saints by the Louisiana Restaurant Association in 1967, just before the Saints played their first NFL game. Another original mascot is Sir Saint, a helmet-wearing character with a protruding jaw, who returned to the Saints games in 2009 after a hiatus of several decades.

Source: Dustin Bradford / Getty Images

23. New York Giants
>Mascot: N/A
>When mascot was debuted: N/A

The New York Giants have been in the NFL since 1925, but have never had a mascot. The Giants got their name from the New York baseball team of the same name, which many football teams did at that time.

Source: dean bertoncelj / Shutterstock.com

24. New York Jets
>Mascot: N/A
>When mascot was debuted:

Like their New York football brethren the Giants, the Jets also do not have a mascot. They joined the American Football League as the Titans and switched to the Jets to sound more modern.

Source: Courtesy of Panini Stickers

25. Oakland Raiders
>Mascot: Raider Rusher
>When mascot was debuted: 2013

The Oakland Raiders joined the American Football League in 1960, but did not adopt a mascot until 2013. Raider Rusher is derived from an animated cartoon series entitled “NFL Rush Zone” that was co-produced by the NFL and Nickelodeon. The Raiders, who embraced an outlaw persona in the past, are using the Raider character to be more youth-friendly.

Source: chrisinphilly5448 / Flickr

26. Philadelphia Eagles
>Mascot: Swoop
>When mascot was debuted: 1996

Swoop is the mascot for the Philadelphia Eagles, a white-headed bird who wears an Eagles jersey. Swoop debuted as the mascot for the Eagles in 1996, 63 years after the Eagles joined the NFL.

Source: Jgera5 / Wikimedia Commons

27. Pittsburgh Steelers
>Mascot: Steely McBeam
>When mascot was debuted: 2007

The Steelers joined the NFL the same year as the Eagles, and like their fellow Pennsylvania team, they did not adopt a mascot until many years later. The character Steely McBeam, a nod to the city’s steelmaking past, debuted in 2007. Steely McBeam was the winning entry of more than 70,000 that were submitted for the “name-the-mascot” contest.

Source: virtualsugar / Flickr

28. San Francisco 49ers
>Mascot: Sourdough Sam
>When mascot was debuted: 1994

Sourdough Sam is a caricature of a 49er, a prospector who went to California hoping to strike it rich in the 1849 California Gold Rush. The San Francisco 49ers adopted the mascot in 1994, nearly 50 years after they joined the All-America Football Conference.

Source: zaffi / Flickr

29. Seattle Seahawks
>Mascot: Blitz
>When mascot was debuted: 1998

The mascot Blitz is a large, blue bird that debuted on Sept. 13, 1998, at the Seahawks’ home opener at the Kingdome in Seattle. Blitz has been joined by feathered sidekicks Boom and Taima — the latter is a real hawk. The Seahawks name was the result of a fan contest that drew 20,365 entries who suggested 1,742 names.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard / Petty Officer 3rd Class Ashley J. Johnson

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
>Mascot: Captain Fear
>When mascot was debuted: 2000

Captain Fear is a caricature of a pirate, in acknowledgment of the buccaneers who marauded ships in Florida’s waters in the 17th century. The blue-eyed, black-haired privateer replaced a parrot mascot named Skully in 2000.

Source: Wesley Hitt / Getty Images

31. Tennessee Titans
>Mascot: T-Rac
>When mascot was debuted: 1999

T-Rac is a caricature of a raccoon, the state animal of Tennessee. The mascot debuted in 1999, four years after the team relocated from Houston and changed its name to the Titans from the Oilers.

Source: Patrick Smith / Getty Images

32. Washington Redskins
>Mascot: N/A
>When mascot was debuted: N/A

The Washington Redskins are one of four NFL teams that do not have a mascot. Until his death in 2016, an African-American man named Zema Williams (aka Chief Zee) was the unofficial mascot of the Redskins, dressing up in Native American costume, with a war bonnet and rubber tomahawk. The Redskins have been under pressure to change their name from those who find it offensive and demeaning to Native Americans.

To top