Being the ‘Cat

Anna Hadjitheodosiou

Will D. Cat just might be the only University figure adored by Villanovans everywhere more than basketball Head Coach Jay Wright. Funny and endearing, the Wildcat brings Villanova spirit to just about every major event on campus: from basketball games to Balloon Day, from Special Olympics to NovaFest. He even does off-campus events, as alumni couples often ask him to make an appearance at their weddings, and local kids get a huge kick out of a birthday party visit from the one and only Villanova Wildcat.

It may seem like Will has been around forever, but until the 1920s, Villanova’s athletic teams were known as either “The Blue and White” or “The Main Liners.” Then, in 1926, a competition for a new name was conducted, and the result was the Wildcat, a suggestion by then-football Assistant Coach Edward Hunsinger. The Wildcat was chosen for the feisty reputation of this animal; it is known for its will to survive as well as its ferocious attitude, speed, agility and alertness, all of which are qualities that Villanova athletes strive to embody.

There’s a lot of work that goes into being the Wildcat: he trains with the cheerleading team over the summer and attends a two-week mascot camp at the University of Scranton. During the year, he does hundreds of appearances. Not to mention the seemingly impossible task of keeping the identity of the Wildcat under wraps.

“Superheroes are full ofit,” Will proclaims. “It’s not so easy to keep your identity a secret.”

Although other mascots get compensated for their time and devotion (the Saint Joseph’s Hawk gets a full ride), the Wildcat and his trainer do it just for the sake of doing it.

“I don’t remember every ‘A’ I ever got,” says Will’s trainer, senior Andrew Bastin. “But I remember every minute I ever spent with Will. There’s never a dull moment.”

Bastin is by no means exaggerating. He’s seen Will join in a friendly schoolyard game of dodgeball, which quickly escalated into a not-so-friendly game of pelt-the-Wildcat. Will has taken falls on the court and down the bleachers. He’s high-fived celebrities and professional athletes. He’s even made friends with a lady in a fur coat, petting it in awe and comparing it to his own.

Despite the glamour of being featured at nationally televised basketball games and the wild, unpredictable good times of campus events, Will says that his most rewarding moments by far are when children run up to him, wide-eyed and excited. Although he admits that they often run right back to their parents in tears, petrified of the big, furry creature that somehow didn’t seem so big and scary from far away, he tries his hardest to alleviate their fears and put smiles on their faces once again.

But don’t be fooled: Will D. Cat is no softy, and he doesn’t mess around when it comes to cheering on ‘Nova’s dedicated teams. He’s at every home football and basketball game and often makes appearance at soccer, volleyball and field hockey games, just to name a few. Will was amazed by the energy and spirit of this year’s faithful fans, but he has a few words of advice for the Villanova student section:

“Cheer louder. Cheer better. Help me start the wave!”

And as always, Villanova, don’t stop believing.