September 4, 2015
Secret Student Behind Temoc is All Fired Up
Aug. 27, 2013
He’s tall and muscular, with unearthly good looks.
But given the blue skin, flame-orange hair whooshing backward and that wild-eyed grin, Temoc is not your typical college mascot.
He makes up for it with spunk and attitude, though: strutting when he walks, giving out high-fives, showing off his athletic dance moves and acting the life of the party at UT Dallas student and alumni events.
For the student who has played the mascot since fall 2012, he’s pretty near perfect.
“What’s great about Temoc is he’s so unique. You never see another Temoc,” said the student-who-must-not-be-named.
“He perfectly represents UT Dallas. We’re unique in our own little way,” said the student beneath the costume. “I once heard someone define ‘weird’ as ‘limited edition.’ That’s us. And Temoc’s the biggest weirdo of all.”
The student who portrays the mascot is a marketing senior in the Naveen Jindal School of Management and an avid Spurs basketball fan from San Antonio. As far as he is concerned, that’s all anyone needs to know. The man inside the suit prefers the focus to be on Temoc and the Comet pride he instills, not on the mere mortal who sets him in motion.
He earned his mascot chops playing the Buccaneer at Blinn College in Brenham, and enjoyed the experience so much that when he transferred to UT Dallas, he tried out for the role of Temoc.
Playing the flame-haired Comet is a particularly good fit, he said.
“I’ve always been goofy and hyperactive. I never really needed a suit to jump around and dance. This justifies my behavior,” he said.
His personality is so in tune with Temoc that when someone requests an appearance from the campus mascot, the only instructions he’s given are when and where to show up. His task is singular: to “jive up the place and be the life of the party, even though he can’t talk.”
Originally called “Blaze,” the UT Dallas mascot was designed in 1998 by then-student Aaron Aryanpur to represent a comet-like figure. His name was later changed to Temoc, which is “comet” spelled backward.
It takes a combination of fearlessness, energy and joy to be Temoc.
“It’d be cool if he can dance or be athletic, but honestly, it’s just being happy at heart,” said Temoc’s alter ego. “My passion is to make people smile, and being a mascot is the best outlet for that.”
Indeed, Temoc is usually swarmed for photos when he shows up at such campus events. Freshman Orientation is a particular blast, he said.
“It’s packed. There’s a lot of people. The bigger the crowd, the bigger the Temoc. I feed off their energy,” he said.
Briana Lemos, director of student development and Temoc’s handler, said the student behind the mascot is amazing in his ability to ignite school spirit and pride in everyone he meets.
“His passion and excitement for UT Dallas is contagious, and you just can’t help smiling when you are around him,” Lemos said. “He wants UT Dallas to be the best and is motivated to be the best representative he can be. He is the perfect student to be serving as a school mascot.”
He also makes Temoc a popular draw at alumni events, said Melinda Ellis, director of alumni relations.
“It’s inspiring to see how beloved Temoc is. He adds so much energy and enthusiasm to events with our alumni. I never tire of seeing students, alumni and their families surround Temoc adoringly, like a group of fans at a concert.”
“It’s inspiring to see how beloved Temoc is,” said Ellis. “He adds so much energy and enthusiasm to events with our alumni. I never tire of seeing students, alumni and their families surround Temoc adoringly, like a group of fans at a concert.”
Though his wardrobe is mostly T-shirts and basketball shorts, Temoc occasionally can be spotted in a black suit, orange shirt and tie. As for the blue body suit, he keeps two sets on hand: one to wear while the other is at the dry-cleaners.
“It’s 30 degrees hotter in the suit than outside,” the student said. “I pretty much sweat from standing still.”
Even so, playing the mascot is so much fun that when he finishes at an event, he’ll make Temoc rounds on campus, surprising students, faculty and staff.
“The costume gives me access, so I can get to places. Staff can always use a smile. They’re my biggest fan. They’re more excited than the students.”
Not everyone takes an immediate liking to the quirky mascot, however. He once startled a female student who was checking her smartphone while waiting for an elevator. As the doors opened, she looked up and saw the tall blue-skinned creature with fiery orange hair. And that ever-loving smirk.
“She let out this horror movie scream. It just went on and on,” he said. “My heart was pounding, but I can’t talk when I’m playing Temoc. So I tried to gesture that she would be alright, and I gave her a kiss on the hand. I felt so bad about that.”
Normally Temoc draws a more favorable response. His trademark moves include greeting guys with two hand slaps and a salute, and maybe a chest bump. For girls, he shakes hands and gallantly kisses their hand. “I propose a lot, for the sake of pictures,” he admitted.
He participates in the annual National Cheer Association’s mascot camp and competition, where he takes on such mascots as Rowdy Raider from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and Starsky the Ram at Oklahoma City University. He placed fifth last year, but is aiming for No. 1 this time around, already rehearsing his skit and studying the performance videos of other mascots.
“Preparing for this competition takes more work than you would think. But honestly, this is what I love. UT Dallas has done so much for me. I would like to return the favor. We’re up and coming. I want to win a championship for us.”
That focus on UT Dallas is the main reason he enjoys keeping his identity a secret.
“Sometimes when I’m walking around campus, I see people that I interacted with as Temoc, and I think it’s funny that they don’t know it was me. It’s a strange addiction for me. I just love it.”
The mascot-player said he might reveal his identity someday, but only after he graduates from UT Dallas.
Then again, maybe not.
“I would rather people see Temoc as Temoc,” he said. “I’m going to leave UT Dallas one day, but Temoc will stay. He’s a lot bigger than that. I wouldn’t want to take away from him. He can do things I can’t.”