Legacy of the ‘Cat

Amber McKenna


Editor in cheif


It’s a brisk December night in Salem, Va., yet hundreds stand outside.

These spectators, plus thousands more, via TV, watch in anticipation as the clock counts down: 5…4…3…2…1! Men decked in purple and red jump in the air, screaming, the Linfield Wildcats have won the 2004 NCAA Division-III Football National Championship.

Linfield’s unique color scheme, purple and cardinal, was first adopted when school sports began to be organized in 1917. Then, in 1924, the student body voted for the Wildcat mascot because, according to the Linfield Football Guide, Linfield was a small school with a lot of fight
and scratch.

“[Schools] didn’t think about things like colors or mascots in the early days,” Kelly Bird, sports information director, said.  “They just played for the sake of competing.”

Professor of History Marv Henberg said the ’20s were the time when colleges nationwide were picking mascots.

Before the vote Linfield sports teams were cheered for as the “Baptists,” referring to the schools founding values.

Bird said the logo of a wildcat face with a sailor hat, first drawn in a red monochromatic scheme, evolved in the late 1920s, when that kind of image was in style. Hall of Fame Coach Paul Durham popularized the image in the 1960s by having football players wear the logo as decals on their helmets. After little change, the logo is still on helmets today, as well as the uniforms and paraphernalia for all of Linfield’s sports teams.

“The Wildcat is like the Old Oak,” Henberg said.  “Our classic image.”

“Willy the Wildcat” has only been around since 1994, Jeff Mackay, director of Residence Life, said.  Since then, Willy has made appearances at home football and basketball games, as well as other sporting events. He even popped up at the inauguration of Linfield College President Thomas Hellie on in the spring of 2007.

Now on his second Wildcat suit, one or two people act as Willy throughout the year and are usually revealed at the end of the sporting season.

Some may wonder: For a school so focused on tradition, is a change for the Wildcat anywhere in the future?

“If we changed the Wildcat, people would be up in up in arms,” Bird said.  “Plus, winning teams don’t need to change what they’re doing.”


Get to Know Willy


Q: What do you do to get into the Willy the Wildcat persona?

A: I lounge in the sun and kill small birds and rodents.


Q: Do you have a favorite spot to haunt during the games?

A: Yes. The band is the funniest by far and dancing is fun!


Q: What’s your favorite thing about being the Wildcat?

A: The total lack of being a person and just being a large cat that walks upright.


Q: What does it smell like in there?

A: Nothing really. Well, the birds and rodents I kill, but nothing too bad.


Q: Why did you want to be the Cat?

A: ‘Cause everybody wants to be a cat.


Q: Is it hard not to speak when inside the costume?

A: Oh I speak, but I talk in the ancient cat languages that are passed on
from mascot to mascot.


Q: Do your family members and friends know you’re the Wildcat?

A: No. No one knows my true identity.


Q: Can we expect any antics from you this season?

A: Oh, you can.


Q: Have any cool moves you plan to show off at games?

A:I already have! But if those weren’t enough for you, there are more up the pipe!

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