Michael Sprague | Lindenlink Contributor
Chances are you have seen his face. He is at every football game at Hunter and every basketball game in the Hyland. He makes public appearances at tons of other Lindenwood events. Equipped from head to toe in a Lindenwood uniform, he prepares to put on his best show for everyone in attendance.
His name is Aki Herron, and he is not a member of either team. Herron doesn’t put on the pads or strap on the ankle braces, instead he layers himself in a different uniform. He is the Lindenwood Lion.
Herron, a 23-year-old senior from Florissant, MO., studies criminal justice with an emphasis in paralegal studies here at LU. Also on the cheerleading squad, Herron says an unfortunate event during a 2010 competition actually led him to pursue the position of mascot.
“During a large co-ed competition I threw a basket and my flyer’s elbow came out and hit me right in the jaw and I broke it in two places,” Herron said. “I was out and couldn’t cheer, but I didn’t want to sit out. I wanted to do something to be a part of the team.”
Since first joining the cheer squad during his junior year at Hazelwood Central High School, Herron has worked hard to develop his skills.
“The first time I did a back handspring was in preparation for high school cheerleading tryouts,” Herron said. “I was in my basement on a mattress and I fell flat on my face.”
By the time the mascot position was left vacant in 2010, Herron had mastered both the back handspring and back tuck. A little bit of practice allowed Herron to even flip through the air in the mascot costume. With these skills, he took control of the Lion outfit that winter and never looked back.
“I started off during basketball season, it was when we had that old mascot costume with the giant head,” Herron said. “I was able to kind of make it my own and people really liked it.”
His energy and commitment to the job was so influential, it led to the purchase of a new, up-to-date Lion costume.
While Herron continues to bring the energy level up at events, he now benefits from the title in another way.
“I still get to cheer which is great, and mascotting is now my work and learn,” Herron said. “I go out and make appearances whenever someone asks, I’m at every football game, every basketball game, and I’ll attend other sports if they request it.”
Other opportunities in the world of mascotting have also been made available to Herron. He has been the mascot for multiple cheerleading competitions which have seen him portray a tiger, giant whale, and almost a giant cartoon-looking character called Jammy. He has been a kangaroo for Dish Network and will soon represent the Missouri Monsters in their inaugural indoor football season at the Family Arena.
Former Lions’ punter-turned-kicker for the Monsters, Morris Keseloff, turned Herron onto the idea, saying “he was just always so energetic at our football games and I knew he would be up for it so I had to tell him.”
General Manager Justin Madden said a lot of things about Herron caught his eye before awarding him the job.
“As soon as he walked in there was energy and that’s really what we want in a mascot, Madden said. I also had a lot of people saying a lot of good things about him, and once I met him, I felt the same way.”
Herron is technically a senior, but still has one full school year before graduation. He hopes to continue pursuing mascot positions as they come up both for personal enjoyment and possibly for his future.
“I’m using it as kind of a resume builder. You never know, the side plan could be professional mascotting,” Herron said with a laugh.