mascot

Meet Sturgis, Kennesaw State’s new mascot

Name of Publication: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Excerpt of Article: 

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Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013

By Doug Roberson - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COMMERCE — Turn left onto the dirt road. At the next fork, take the next right. Then drive to the bottom of the hill, where the flood plain looks like a jungle.

Parrots, crows and pigeons live in large cages, chattering away on this brisk, gray morning. But they aren’t what Kennesaw State athletic director Vaughn Williams came to see.

Williams is here to see Sturgis, a Eurasian eagle owl.

Sturgis is the star because, with apologies to Williams, he is the face of Kennesaw State: the university’s first live mascot. He is named after the university’s first president, Horace Sturgis.

“We are trying to establish an identity,” Williams said. “Live mascots are an impactful way to engage fans.”

And what a face it is.

Sturgis’ large orange eyes are surrounded by brown and black feathers as smooth as silk and as soft as cotton. He coos and chirps – comfortable baby noises that will be replaced by hoots, owner and trainer Daniel Walthers said.

Sturgis is now perched on Walthers’ arm, which is encased in a longthick leather glove. Williams is anxious to put the glove on because he wants to hold Sturgis.

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“Every time I can have him on my arm, you just don’t get to do that,” Williams said. “That’s part of the beauty of this whole thing.”

The glove is necessary because, though Sturgis is an owlet and weighs just five pounds, he’s still a predator with surprising strength.

An adult eagle owl can weigh as much as nine pounds, at which point they are strong enough to take down a small deer. Their grip pressure can reach 500 pounds, 200 more than that of a bald eagle. When the claws sink in, they don’t let go, hence the need for the glove. The eagle owl eats rodents, ducks, pigeons and pheasant, among other things.

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Sturgis looks to the sky, where a hawk circles overhead.

Walthers pitched the idea of a live mascot to Kennesaw State a couple of years ago, but Williams said the university wasn’t ready.

After football was approved in February, Walthers was brought back down for an interview.

Williams said he was most interested in three things: the safety of the bird; Walthers’ experience handling live mascots; and Walthers’ ideas on what could be done to educate people about the owl.

Williams loved what he heard and an agreement was reached. Walthers, whose experience training and raising and taking care of birds is extensive, would keep Sturgis. Kennesaw State would pay $1,000 per appearance. Williams hopes they can arrange photo sessions so that fans can interact with Sturgis. The proceeds from the photos would go to support various conservation groups in the area.

“Thought it would be another sense of how we can brand Kennesaw State and a tremendous way to educate people about the grace and beauty of the bird,” Williams said.

Sturgis and his brother were hatched by a breeder in New York and purchased by Walthers earlier this year for $3,000.

Walthers soon began training Sturgis for his new role with a variety of tools, including airhorns, music, toys … anything that he thinks Sturgis may encounter during an athletic event or appearance.

It is a role that Walthers, likes Sturgis, seems born to.

Walthers got into birding when he was 9 years old, living in Minnesota. A shy child, he guesses he was attracted to birds because he wanted the attention. Plus, they could fly and he couldn’t, which he found interesting.

He started with parrots and pigeons. He bought a domesticated pigeon and kept it in his closet. His parents didn’t know.

He went out and caught a blackbird. A parrot perches on his shoulder in his class picture.

“He’s truly a Dr. Dolittle,” his wife Teresa said.

Walthers has tried to train everything from a tiny finch to a vulture to a large emu. The last two didn’t work out so well. The vulture would walk around their Victorian home, tapping on the windows looking for Walthers, or would peck on their roof looking for insects and other things to eat. The emu, which can grow to as tall as 6 feet and weigh as much as 120 pounds, just couldn’t be trained.

Training Sturgis is easy compared to those two.

Walthers said he trains birds through a process he explains as helping them release mental pressure. He theorizes that people and animals, when in a heightened state, remember things more clearly. He asks his guests what they remember about where they were during Sept. 11. Many people’s memories are fairly clear.

With birds, he describes the process of getting physically close to them, which increases their mental pressure. As he backs off, the pressure begins to decrease but the birds are still very alert. That’s when he works on the training. He describes it as “natural training.” It’s not operant conditioning, in which he withholds food in exchange for the desired behavior. He believes that type of reinforcement works against the trainer.

It’s a process that he taught himself through experience and visits to zoos and other animal sites.

Now, people from all over the world call him with questions about training birds.

Plus, it seems that he loves his animals too much to ever consider withholding food. He guesses he has more than 100 animals on his 20 acres. Teresa estimates that they spend at least $100 a day to feed them. All of the animals are domestic. None is imported.

Teresa used to be in the corporate world until she resigned so that she could raise their children, who help with the animals. Teresa now works in real estate.

Daniel breeds various species of birds. There are more than 60 parrots at their home and dozens of pigeons. He also trains African Pied Crows, which are passed off as ravens, for TV shows such as “The Walking Dead” or commercials. He trained the first live raven used by Baltimore’s NFL team in 2008-09.

He used to train birds for shows like those at Busch Gardens. He also used to run a larger breeding operation but got out of it because of the expense.

Maintaining their farm is a full-time job. Walthers said he works from morning until night, and every day feels like there is still so much to do. He rarely takes vacations because he doesn’t want to leave the animals in someone else’s care. He is certified by the Department of Natural Resources.

Sturgis seems bored by the attention, but perks up when Walthers brings out some food. Sturgis can eat three times a day. Walthers said Eurasian eagle owls can live up to 60 years in captivity, twice as long as in the wild, because they receive a steady supply of food.

Williams has been holding Sturgis for the past 15 minutes and doesn’t want to let him go, even during feeding time. Sturgis eats and then begins to coo again.

Williams will see Sturgis again in February, possibly at the university’s first signing day for football on Feb. 5. Sturgis will definitely make an appearance at the men’s basketball game against Mercer on Feb. 7.

Williams can hardly wait.

“A great horned owl is powerful,” he said. “That’s how I see our student-athletes and Kennesaw State.”


TIMELINE

A look at Kennesaw State’s decision to have a live mascot:

February: The Board of Regents approves Kennesaw State’s financing plan for football.

February: Kennesaw State athletic director Vaughn Williams meets with noted bird trainer Daniel Walthers about the possibility of the school having a “live” mascot. They reach an agreement.

April 8: Sturgis is hatched in New York.

April 29: Sturgis is shipped to Walthers.

October: Sturgis’ name is revealed and he makes his first appearance at Kennesaw State’s “Flight Night.”

Kennesaw State football documentary will air Friday

Name of Publication: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Excerpt of Article: 

BY DOUG ROBERSON - THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

The first of a four-part documentary series about Kennesaw State’s new football team will air at 9:30 p.m. on on Friday on CSS.

Part one of the documentary, “It’s Our Time: The Building of Kennesaw State Football,” will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the exploratory committee that helped shephered in the team, the hiring of coach Brian Bohannon, and other elements. The Owls will play their first game in 2015.

The documentaries are being produced by Pic2 Productions and Kennesaw State’s athletics department.

The remaining parts are scheduled to air in the fall/winter of 2014, summer of 2015 and fall of 2015.

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More coverage below:

Documentary in store for KSU football
by MDJ staff reports
December 18, 2013 12:34 AM | 528 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 
 

KENNESAW — In the two years leading up to kickoff of Kennesaw State’s football program, a four-part documentary will be aired on the team’s creation.

The series — “It’s Our Time: The Building of Kennesaw State Football” — is a joint production between the university’s athletic department and Pic2 Productions.

The first of four original episodes will air Friday at 9:30 p.m. on CSS, the regional sports cable network. Additional episodes are tentatively set for late 2014, the summer of 2015 and the fall of 2015.

According to a university release, Friday’s episode will provide a behind-the-scenes look that begins with the formation of an exploratory committee chaired by former Georgia coaching great Vince Dooley.

It will also include, among other topics: the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ vote in favor of Kennesaw State adding football, the university securing Fifth Third Bank as its leading sponsor, the official announcement of football coming to campus the hiring of Brian Bohannon as the Owls’ coach, the university’s invitation to join the Big South Conference and the announcement of the team’s first game, set for Sept. 3, 2015 at East Tennessee State.

Future episodes will showcase Bohannon and his staff on the recruiting trail and other formative moments leading up to Kennesaw State’s first games.

“Through this documentary, we will provide viewers with an inside look into all the decision-making and planning, while building the excitement level as Kennesaw State prepares for kickoff,” said Al Barba, director of athletic communications for the university and a co-executive producer of the documentary. “The response to football at Kennesaw State has been overwhelming and that will come to life in this series as we document history.”

Steve Graham, an eight-time Emmy award-winning producer, is producing the documentary. He has worked on past documentaries that included a look at Dooley’s final season as Georgia’s coach and the storied football rivalry between Notre Dame and Southern Cal.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Documentary in store for KSU football

KSU homecoming weekend to bring festivities, crowds

Name of Publication: 
The Marietta Daily Journal and Kennesaw Patch
Excerpt of Article: 
 
by Hannah Morgan
 
October 18, 2013 12:29 AM
 
 
 

KENNESAW — Parking will be scarce this weekend at Kennesaw State University, as students, parents, alumni and staff flock to the campus to celebrate homecoming.

KSU kicked off this year’s festivities Wednesday, with a lip-synching contest and has exciting events planned for the rest of the weekend, including sporting events, outdoor games, a pep rally, fashion show and a performance by hip-hop star Juicy J.

Homecoming has been celebrated at KSU since the mid-1980s, but the festivities current students are familiar with were revamped in 2009, when Michael Sanseviro, dean of Student Success, was hired.

This year, Sanseviro expects about 5,000 people to visit campus throughout the weekend.

The Student Government Association will be having an “Owl’s Outreach” service day today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., where it will be collecting donations to send to active members of the military, homeless shelters and veterans, Sanseviro said.

The school’s soccer team will face off with Stetson University Friday night, followed by a fireworks show.

Saturday evening, at 5 p.m., parents, alumni, students and faculty are invited to attend the school’s homecoming parade, which will start at the KSU Student Center and end at the school’s Convocation Center.

The parade will lead right into “Flight Night,” where the women’s and men’s basketball teams will be introduced for the first time this season, alongside the members of the homecoming court, and the school’s new live mascot, an owl who is yet to be named.

Caleb Lee, 22, a senior at KSU, is planning on attending many of the weekend’s events. The history education major is on the homecoming court and is excited for the chance for his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, to compete and spend time with other school organizations throughout the weekend, he said.

After the courtside celebration, participants will head out to the campus green to hear a free performance by local Kennesaw band, Battlefield Collective, and country music star Chuck Wicks.

“I’m really looking forward to Saturday,” said L.J. Jacques, a junior communications major. She will be walking in the parade with the residence life float, she said, and then heading to see Wick’s performance.

On Sunday morning, parents and students are invited to a brunch at 11 a.m., followed by a school-wide fashion show, featuring the children of faculty, as well as students of KSU.

Hip-hop artist Juicy J will round out the weekend’s celebration with a performance in the school’s Convocation Center at 7 p.m.

A team of about 60 people have been actively involved in the planning of this year’s event for about a year, Sanseviro said.

“KSU really is awesome, and it’s nice to see the school spirit,” Jacques added

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - KSU homecoming weekend to bring festivities crowds

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Additional media coverage below:

Kennesaw Patch

News | Schools

 

Kennesaw State University Homecoming 2013

Kennesaw State University Homecoming 2013 will include multiple sporting events, concerts, field games, a pep rally, a fashion show and reunion socials.

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Homecoming 2013 takes place Oct. 16 through 20 and will include multiple sporting events, concerts, field games, a pep rally, a fashion show and reunion socials.

Major events and activities are planned for the centerpiece of the celebration on Saturday, Oct. 19.

Homecoming 2013 highlights for Friday, Oct. 18, include:

  • “The Big Event: Our Owls Outreach,” volunteer event hosted by the KSU Student Government Association, on the Campus Green, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Soccer Match and Fireworks Show, KSU vs. Stetson, 7 p.m., Fifth Third Bank Stadium

Homecoming 2013 highlights for Saturday, Oct. 19, include:

  • Homecoming Parade & Owl Prowl, starting at the KSU Student Center and ending at the KSU Convocation Center, 5 p.m.
  • Flight Night Basketball Preview & Homecoming Court Presentation, first public appearance of KSU’s live owl mascot at the KSU Convocation Center, 7:15 p.m.
  • Free concert featuring Chuck Wicks, KSU Campus Green, 8:45 p.m.

Homecoming 2013 highlights for Sunday, Oct. 20, include:

  • KAB Fashion Show and concert featuring Juicy J ($3-$5 tickets for non-KSU students), KSU Convocation Center, doors open at 6 p.m.

For the full schedule, parade route and details for Alumni and the Parent & Family Association, visit: http://www.kennesaw

Kennesaw State University president officially proclaims College Colors Day

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School spirit on display during annual celebration on Sept. 2

Flanked by Kennesaw State University Athletic Director Vaughn Williams, Scrappy the owl and representatives of the student government association, cheerleaders and dance squad, Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp signed an official proclamation to designate Friday, Sept. 2, as College Colors Day at Kennesaw State.

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