It’s a sweaty job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Eight different students don the toned foam uniform of SuperFrog to drive fans to their feet on game day.
The face behind the Frog changes for each event and at halftime during football games. Sometimes SuperFrog can be seen off campus at weddings or the grand opening of a local business. He welcomed customers to the new Raising Cane’s on University Drive and shared some spunk with the Louden family at their annual holiday light show. But SuperFrog is more than an outfit.
A senior and fourth-year SuperFrog mascot, who asked that his name be withheld from publication, described the opportunity in one phrase: It’s a blast.
People just flock to SuperFrog, he said. After running onto the football field, flag in hand and football team in his wake, SuperFrog hops into the stands to take photographs with fans or dance with the band. Everyone is SuperFrog’s friend.
Each student adds something unique to the mascot. One young man does back flips. Others spend most of the game mingling with fans. The students make SuperFrog the mascot they want it to be.
The person behind the Horned Frog mask is selected by the same panel of outside judges hired to choose the cheerleaders. Contestants are asked to perform a skit of their own creation so that the judges can see how well they move in the costume. Lindsay Shoulders, Horned Frog spirit coordinator, said she liked to get as many students as possible involved in the SuperFrog team and hoped to do more skits come next year when TCU moves to the Big 12 Conference.
But it’s not all back flips and photographs. It’s hot in that costume, despite the battery-operated fan in the head, ice packs and the cooling vest. SuperFrog has had heat exhaustion on at least two occasions. And then there’s the general wear and tear on the uniform. Lindsay Shoulders said that children often punch out SuperFrog’s eyes in the excitement of meeting the mascot. The costume is maintained at least once a week.
Before the days of cooling vests and battery-operated fans, the SuperFrog costume was made of a heavy duvetyn material that did not breathe much on summer afternoons in Fort Worth. And it was not SuperFrog.
“Addie the All-American Horned Frog” was born in September 1949, the brainchild of senior Amarillo native and Howdy Week chairman Jimmy Paschal. At the time, there were plenty of horned frogs spitting blood and snatching ants across the state of Texas, but Paschal told the Skiff that “we’d look somewhat silly dragging one around on a string” on the sidelines. Opponents would be more likely to laugh than gulp at a lizard that is less than 6 inches long.
The Horned Frog has been TCU’s mascot since 1897, but the costume did not make its debut until fall 1949. The six-foot tall Horned Frog looked more like a space creature than a lizard. Its papier-mâché head was flat and wide with a large crescent for the mouth. The eyes were half-closed and rested on top while numerous horns protruded from the back of the head.
Addie made its first public appearance on Sept. 24 at a Saturday game against the Oklahoma A&M Aggies. The mascot was named after Addison Clark, Jr., the son of one of the founding fathers. He helped bring football to campus in 1896 and was instrumental in giving the school its Horned Frog nickname.
Thirty years would pass before “Addie the All-American Horned Frog” suffered an identity crisis and SuperFrog stepped in. And throughout those three decades, the costume changed bit by bit, horn by horn. The head got bigger, the eyes rounder. More horns were added. The eyes bulged more. The final Addie costume was destroyed by an SMU football player who kicked in the papier-mâché head after a 1977 game. And that was the end of Addie.
John Grace, the university’s first athletic promotions director, created the new mascot to foster “Frog Fever,” his 1979 campaign to promote school spirit around the campus and community. SuperFrog made its mascot debut at the SMU vs. TCU game Sept. 15.
The costume costs $3,500 and was designed by the Paul Osborne Co. of Dallas. But unlike Addie, SuperFrog had an open face with big, round watery eyes and a tongue that had a habit of lolling out the side of an always-open mouth. His mottled gray skin had the appearance of scales, but the purple horns steepled on his head really gave him that Horned Frog look.
It wasn’t until 1999 that SuperFrog evolved into the mascot most current students would recognize. SuperFrog shaped up, shed some pounds and straightened up its style. The new costume, made in Canada, was built from strong foam composite complete with colored horns, bright attentive eyes and a wide-mouthed grin. SuperFrog’s muscular arms and legs peeked out of shiny new clothing that was stretched taunt over his swollen shoulders and chest.
Next season, Horned Frog fans will be in a new conference and a new stadium, and they will be scanning the crowd and the field for a familiar face. The person behind the mask may change on any given day, but the spirit of SuperFrog remains the same no matter the conference, venue or day of the week.