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‘the worst-kept secret in the history of duke’: blue devil mascots reveal identities, reflect on time at duke

it’s a familiar game day scene: duke and the university of north carolina at chapel hill men’s basketball teams are facing off inside cameron indoor stadium for the season culmination of a decades-old rivalry. the roar of the cameron crowd is near-deafening, only encouraged by the antics of the blue devil mascot. as the devil dances to “everytime we touch” with the audience, pumping its fists up and down, it’s easy to forget the person inside the costume bringing the blue devil to life.

to most of the duke population, stratton thomas, trinity ‘22, and cate schick, trinity ‘22, are ordinary students: they take classes, participate in clubs and, like many at duke, are diehard duke basketball fans. but when thomas and schick mysteriously disappear during various sporting events, people are bound to ask: where do they go? 

the answer is thomas and schick’s biggest secret, and their most exciting reveal: for the majority of their duke careers, the two have been the people in the iconic blue devil suit, hyping up the crowds inside cameron indoor stadium and wallace wade stadium, traveling across the united states for sporting events and participating in nationally-aired commercial shoots. 

as recently graduated seniors, thomas and schick have finally been able to let the cat out of the bag. in recent instagram posts, both thomas and schick revealed their identity as the blue devil mascot, garnering reactions of shock, elation and a few “i knew it!” comments from friends, according to the pair. 

beyond attending sporting events, riling up crowds and dancing around fields and courts, life as the well-loved mascot contains hidden aspects. from accidental identity reveals to having a head almost fall off in the thick of a game, thomas and schick have experienced it all.

stratton mascot
stratton thomas in the blue devil costume.

‘the hype man of all hype men’ 

thomas has described the “awesome” experience of suiting up in the blue devil costume as “one of the favorite parts” of his college years. 

“it's just an electric experience, being the hype man of all hype men,” he said.

from being in costume for the duke-unc game in his sophomore year to traveling to shoot commercials to being on the final four court earlier this year during march madness, thomas said that “just getting to be there was insane.”

thomas started performing as the blue devil as a first-year. despite missing traditional auditions held during the fall semester that year, he was determined to find out what it would take for him to be the person in the iconic costume. 

in a long shot, thomas, who was involved with duke cru, texted in his bible study groupme, “hey, does anyone know how to become the blue devil?”

“it turns out one of the mascots at the time was the roommate of my bible study leader. so my bible study leader said, ‘hey, this guy wants to do this,’” thomas recalled. “and they created a special audition for me.”

after prevailing through multiple intensive audition rounds with tasks like mimicking another blue devil hyping up a crowd, a dance-off and test-running with the costume at a tennis game, thomas got the gig. 

thomas has attended a variety of events, ranging from charity fundraisers to weddings. despite this demanding schedule, he still doesn’t have a “least favorite” part of the job.

“all of it's pretty fun. we do a lot of events outside of sporting events that are usually a little bit less exciting, but those are still really fun,” thomas said. “it's all been a blast.”

along with the serious aspects of the job, thomas would fool around with his friends while in the mascot costume. 

“one of my favorite things has been getting to just mess with people in the student section who are my friends, but didn’t know i was the mascot,” he said. “i would mess with them, screw around with them and have some crowd interaction with them. after the game, they'd be like, ‘oh my gosh, the blue devil was all over me, what was going on?’”

many of those friends didn’t find out that thomas was the mascot until his reveal via instagram in april. still, that wasn’t because thomas was particularly good at keeping the secret. in his post, thomas dubbed his alter ego “the worst kept secret in the history of duke university.”

“i definitely didn't do the best job,” thomas said. “my roommates and the people i lived with knew, because at some point, you get invited to every basketball game, and you have to say, ‘no, i can't go.’ your friends will see you outside of cameron and afterwards, and they're like, ‘you’re all sweaty, what are you doing?’”

but after his final season as mascot, thomas was excited and more than ready to reveal his double life. 

“i've been looking forward to that [reveal] for like two years, because it's something that every mascot at every school gets the opportunity to do,” thomas said. “[the reveal post] has become my most popular instagram post, so no complaints there, but also all the comments from both friends and acquaintances that i've known since my freshman year are overwhelming and amazing.”

though being the mascot was an activity thomas took on for his own enjoyment, he still enjoyed the fame that revealing his secret identity brought. 

“i was getting instagram dms and texts that said, ‘what? you've been the mascot?’” thomas said. “i got to say, ‘yeah, it's been me the whole time.’... i almost feel like a campus celebrity because i'll have people that i'll see, and they'll say, ‘wait, i saw your post. you've been the blue devil!’”

for thomas, leaving the costume and the “most impactful, most memorable, most crazy experience” of his college career behind has been a bittersweet experience. 

“there's really something about it that releases all the stress and pressure, and i have always been able to get in the suit and adopt a different persona,” he said. “but really, i'm going to miss the opportunity that it gave me to just be unbearably myself.”

commencement 15
cate schick at the 2022 commencement.

‘it’s all about being a part of something bigger’

to schick, donning the mascot suit meant embracing the larger duke spirit and community. 

“to me, it's all about just soaking it in … it's all about being a part of something bigger,” schick said. “whenever i'm in the suit, i always associate it with getting on the court, making people smile, dancing around and just getting that hype.”

though being in the blue devil costume has been one of schick’s most “rewarding experiences” at duke, she said that many underestimate the time commitment and long hours schick dedicated to this work. she said that she’s had to step away from executive positions on other activities to commit to the mascot job.

“it takes 30 minutes to get into the suit and 30 minutes to get out of the suit. there's highs and lows with it, and it's not just fun basketball highlights, so it is literally a job that comes with fun,” schick said. 

many of schick’s fondest memories as the blue devil come from shooting commercials with different brands and companies. 

during her sophomore year, schick was asked to travel to atlanta, ga., on a mystery assignment. when she arrived on set, she found out that she was filming a commercial with marriott and former duke basketball player grant hill. the commercial, which shows hill sitting on a basketball court with several college mascots, including schick as the blue devil, eventually ends with all other mascots walking away, leaving the blue devil. the commercial aired during march madness earlier this year, and schick expressed her shock at seeing herself on national television. 

“marriott never told us they were going to air the commercial,” schick said. “we shot that in 2020 in the spring and then never heard from them again. it started airing this year, and when i saw it, i was like, ‘whoa.’”

being in the costume allowed schick to form connections with celebrities in all kinds of circumstances. 

“when we were filming all those commercial shots [after the other mascots got up and left], it was literally just me and grant hill,” schick said. “i took my head off, and he chatted with me, being like, ‘hey, what's changed? what hasn't changed about duke?’ and actually having that personal experience with him was crazy.”

unlike thomas, schick was able to keep her identity as the blue devil under wraps pretty well and evade perceptions that came with being a girl in the costume.  

“you do have random people that might be like, ‘hey, are you the mascot?’ and what we're supposed to say is, ‘no, we just worked with him,’” shick said. “but my roommates know. whoever will shut rumors down the fastest and will keep your secret are trustworthy, and those are people you should tell. when i went from being a huge basketball fan to not really going to games, it was pretty telling.” 

part of her commitment to keeping the secret came from her unusual position as a female mascot. if people at games knew the gender of the person behind the blue devil mask, schick wondered if that would have detracted from their viewing experience.

from running through the streets of las vegas with 30 other mascots she’d met just hours prior at a nissan commercial to becoming good friends with the gonzaga mascot to attempting the worm at a march madness game in san francisco, schick’s time in the blue devil costume has been a “crazy journey.” 

when she returns to cameron and sits in an upper-level seat, as opposed to kneeling on the court, it will undoubtedly be a different experience, she said. 

“as much as i can wear blue, as much as i can cheer, as much as i can try to be the biggest basketball fan, i don't think i'll ever get as close to it again,” schick said. “part of that sucks, but a part of that is exciting, because i've had this one thing that brought me so much joy, and now my next task in life is to find another thing that is as exciting.”

ishani raha profile
ishani raha | senior editor

ishani raha is a pratt junior and a senior editor of 世界杯欧洲杯小组赛 's 119th volume.


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