Behind the mask: Mascots entertain, enjoy life in the crowd

Likewise, Turner, also a junior, has come to enjoy his role as the Wildcat in his third-year of suiting up in the costume.

“You have to make a lot of sacrifices, at times you feel like an athlete,” Turner said. “I don’t get to do the simple things like tailgating, but the enjoyment comes from interacting with the students, who take pride in their mascot.”

The Wildcat has been a mainstay of UK tradition since he was created in the 1976-77 academic year and attends every football and men’s basketball game, with “no offseason,” Turner added.

Scratch joined Wildcat a few years later as a more child-friendly mascot, though Brammell jokes that he still manages to scare “two or three kids a game.”

During the football games, Turner works two quarters pumping up the crowd and taking pictures with fans, then a back-up Wildcat, Dustin Warren, works the other two. Similarly, Brammell, the back-up Scratch, works two alternating quarters with head Scratch, Miles Meehan. Brammell said he tries to rest as much as he can during his break from the suit, which he was told is 30 to 50 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.

“During the game, you just go on adrenaline and Gatorade,” said Brammell, whose post-game ritual involves plunking down on his couch.

Turner said his usual sweat-soaked suit has been washed so many times that clumps of fur have started appearing in his washing machine.

Brammell has yet to experience the atmosphere at a basketball game as Scratch, but Turner said he loves one feeling in particular:

“It’s a pretty incredible feeling being on top of the (cheerleading) pyramid at Rupp (Arena),” said Turner, an Ashland, Ky., native who aspired to play basketball on the hallowed court at Rupp, but had to settle for “the second best thing.”

Despite growing up closer to Louisville in nearby Henry County, Brammell grew up a UK fan in a family that “bleeds blue” and said his granddad thinks his job as Scratch is “the coolest thing.”

Though the two mascots entertain scores of fans today, Turner and Brammell had no experience as mascots prior to trying out for their positions. Turner tried out in the spring of his senior year in high school because he knew the Wildcat at the time, and was happy to find out that he managed to entertain the panel of judges, consisting of old UK mascots.

Brammell decided to try out for Scratch on a dare from one of his friends while they were sitting in the library studying for finals last semester. Brammell, who was friends with the Wildcat on Facebook, saw the Wildcat’s status about open tryouts to become a mascot, so he went, “acted a fool” and was hired.

At work, Scratch and Wildcat aim to be the class-clowns that provide the team with that extra boost, but when the mask comes off, it’s a different story.

“No one knows who you are, it’s kind of like that Clark Kent feeling,” Turner said. “A lot of people overlook the work we do, but we are a hidden asset and ambassadors to the university.”