Clint Gyory thought he could keep it a secret, at least for awhile, about being chosen Penn State’s next Lion mascot. But with front-page stories in The Daily Collegian and Centre Daily Times and an article in his hometown newspaper, Allentown’s Morning Call on Feb. 2, word spread quickly about the next guy to wear the brown furry suit.
If not for a newspaper story a year earlier, Gyory would now be working on his gymnastics routines rather than flipping for the crowd at his first public appearance as the Lion at a recent gymnastics meet. “If I hadn’t been selected as the Lion, I was planning to try out for the gymnastics team,” Gyory said during a recent interview in the Hintz Family Alumni Center’s Robb Hall.
What led Gyory (pronounced “Jory”) to Lion mascot tryouts was an earlier article in the Morning Call. That article covered Gyory’s experiences as Parkland High School’s Trojan mascot during his senior year. Former Nittany Lion mascot Chuck Kimble ’02 read the article in which Gyory said he dreamed of one day being the Penn State Lion. “Chuck contacted me and ultimately put me in touch with the current Lion, James Sheep,” Gyory said. “I came up last year and visited him when I was still in high school.”
Even with the encouragement of a past and current Lion, several obstacles remained for Gyory. Right after winter break, any student aspiring to be the mascot starts by completing a lengthy written application. Of the 12 initial candidates, eight finalists were selected to answer questions before a panel of nine judges and perform push-ups and skits while wearing the suit.
Gyory said a lot of the judge’s questions dealt with why the candidate wants to be the Lion and what he—there were no female candidates this year—would bring to the job. “I was much more nervous during the physical tryouts,” he said. “They have several old Lion suits there, and you have to find the one that fits best,” Gyory explained. Then each finalist presents a skit, performs 30 seconds of improvisation, and then bangs out 50 one-armed push-ups, all as the Lion.
By all accounts, Gyory aced his tryout. His skit involved a James Bond-type scenario with the Lion rescuing a cheerleader and Joe Paterno from a menacing Notre Dame enemy. The skit showcased some of Gyory’s gymnastics skills including a flip and break dancing. For his improvisation, the judges handed him a toilet bowl brush that he turned into a microphone and toothbrush before balancing it with his “paw.” The last part of the tryout—the 50 one-arm push-ups—were no obstacle for a competitive gymnast used to executing iron crosses and other strength moves.
Head cheerleading coach and one of the judges, Curtis White, said this is the first time anyone can remember a freshman winning the coveted job. Gyory will spend the rest of this semester watching graduating Lion James Sheep in action and being coached and mentored by Sheep in his early appearances. Once Gyory becomes the sole Lion—after Sheep graduates in May—he’ll assume the Lion’s grueling schedule of more than 300 appearances at sporting and other events each year.
The business management major isn’t worried about the time commitment. “I’ve been in the gym three to four hours per day, six days per week since I was a kid,” he said. “I’m good at being organized.”