SuperFrog: the students behind the costume

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    He has the most recognizable face on campus. TCU throws him a birthday party every year, and he is shown on television during every football game. Chances are you probably have a picture with him, and you do not even know who he is.

    He is SuperFrog, and between the eight students that the costume, he is really not a “he” at all.

    From "Addy the All-American Frog," which was dreamed up in 1949, to the current muscle-toned, friendly mascot who walks the field today, SuperFrog has evolved as much as campus. In 2011 SuperFrog made his appearance in the Rose Parade on a skateboard. Now, he can be seen doing back flips on the field at football games.

    In the past, SuperFrog had memorable points in history that have created his current personality.

    In 1979, SuperFrog underwent a transformation that made him a more recognizable character and inadvertently gave him the name he has today as the door was closed on the original "Addy, the All-American Frog."

    Forty years later in 2011, Marcus Messamer, a junior mechanical engineering major, has taken SuperFrog to the national stage during the Rose Bowl as the first-ever tumbling frog.

    “It was always my goal, so when I came to college, I was like, ‘I wanna be mascot,’” Messamer said.

    But Messamer did not seek to be the first back-flipping SuperFrog, in fact, SuperFrog kind of came to him.

    During his freshman year, a TCU Showgirl jokingly asked Messamer if he would like to be the TCU mascot.

    “I completely missed out on auditions, but then a girl asked if I wanted to be SuperFrog and I was like, ‘Yes, I do!’" Messamer said. "Then when the coach saw I could tumble she tried to get me to be a male cheerleader.” 

    Cheerleading did not work out for Messamer, but being SuperFrog would soon become a time consuming side job.  

    Messamer was thrown into the suit after he agreed to audition. His audition was working as SuperFrog at a public event. Messamer said he was even sweatier than usual in the suit that day, but he got the job.

    Messamer felt his real break out moment was when he worked as SuperFrog during the Rose Bowl game. As the only freshman SuperFrog that year, he was sure his ability to do flips was the only reason he got to be on the field.

    For Messamer, flipping in the suit was not a realization but a goal. He had been a competitive dancer and tumbler throughout high school but he was not sure if he would be able to do the flips while wearing the large mascot head and padded suit.

    One day Messamer went to practice with the cheerleaders and fully suited up, went for the flips and hoped for the best.

    “There’s only a chin strap to hold the head on and some of the suits have tiny holes that you can hardly see out of," Messamer said. "But now I can tumble in all of them. It helps that I’m a freak and have really long arms."

    His flipping was successful, and thus the start to his mascot career that he one day would like to turn into a full-time job.

    “I wanted to get into being a mascot because I wanted to be a Disney character," Messamer said. "It’s my dream to be Goofy at Disney World.”

    The summer after his first year at the university, as well as his first year of being SuperFrog, Messamer had the confidence to apply for his dream as a Disney entertainer. 

    He was invited to work on the Disney Cruise Line just hours after he accepted another job as an intern for an engineering company in his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa.

    Messamer does not look back on that summer as a missed opportunity. Though, his parents sometimes ask him if he would rather study something that better fits his creative personality, like theater or dance.

    “My mom is in love with me being SuperFrog," Messamer said. "She would fly down for events just to watch me do it, and my dad is super proud. I feel like they would be OK with anything I do.” 

    Messamer is the first-ever flipping, mechanical engineering student SuperFrog, but he has a whole array of talents that he chooses not to incorporate into his side job.

    He is the president of TCU’s Quiddich club and a member of the gymnastics club and the Ultimate Frisbee club. And as the son of the former coach of the national unicycle team, add unicycle onto his list of expertise.

    “I’m a unicyclist, but I try not to ride in the costume because I ride around campus to class, and I don’t want to give it away that I’m SuperFrog.” Messamer said.

    Messamer’s mother was one of the coaches of the U.S. unicycle teams, however, he said, his skill set never advanced beyond riding.

    For Messamer, doing back flips is enough, but not just at games. As all paid SuperFrogs do, Messamer works off-campus events where SuperFrog is paid to show up. Messamer said weddings are his favorite.

    “Every once in a while I throw in a back [flip] if I feel super pumped up,” Messamer said.

    Forty years ago, SuperFrog would not have had the opportunity to tumble across the field or with the band in half time shows because the costume was made of paper mache. Former cheer sponsor Dale Young remembers those days.

    “There’s always been a little bit of criticism about SuperFrog, that it should look a certain way," Young said. "Since then it’s just evolved. It’s much more muscular now and it could take on any of the other mascots."

    Young was the cheer sponsor during 1998-00 but his experience with SuperFrog is not limited to those years. While Young was at TCU, he was a cheerleader from 1965-66. During those days Addy the All-American Frog was the mascot and Alicia Goalson was making TCU history as the first female mascot.

    Young said the evolution of SuperFrog was not only brought about by TCU cheer sponsors wanting change the mascot’s image. In the 60’s, student government chose who would be in the Addy the All-American Frog uniform through an essay contest. 

    It was the student government who elected to revamp the mascot’s look, and it was student government who fought for a tougher looking frog to appease the student body.

    Eventually TCU students got what they wanted–a tougher, meaner looking mascot who would be called SuperFrog. In 1979, the former director of athletics John Grace was asked on the spot what the new name would be.

    “We don’t have a name for the mascot yet. Just call it SuperFrog for now,” John Grace said to a Skiff reporter.

    The name stuck.

    Years later when Young went to work at TCU as the cheer sponsor, SuperFrog was once again undergoing a transformation.

    “In the 90’s the student body kept saying everybody’s getting really good mascots, and we need something that looks like it could take on any other mascot,” Young said.

    During this time SuperFrog was redesigned to look like the muscle-toned mascot suit Messamer tumbles in.

    More than ten years after Lindsay Shoulders took over Dale Young’s job as cheer sponsor, SuperFrog has made character-defining additions to his repertoire of skills. 

    In 2011 he gained national recognition at the Rose Parade where alumnus William Cobb skateboarded for six miles in the SuperFrog suit.

    Cobb skateboarding in the frog suit was a natural progression much like Messamer’s decision to try tumbling.

    “I used to skateboard around campus between classes," Cobb wrote in an email. "It just naturally evolved into the idea that I could skateboard as SuperFrog,” 

    From beaded eyes made to look like blood, to intimidating biceps. From the first female frog to the current eight students who share the responsibility, the TCU mascot has come a long way since its first appearance in 1949.

    SuperFrog’s impact on the campus is stated by a man who wore the suit for four years.

    “He’s established himself as an iconic and entertaining mascot and too much change might anger students and alumni for good reason," Cobb wrote. "It'd be like trying to change the TCU logo."

    Super Frog “Do’s and Don’ts from cheer sponsor/spirit coordinator Lindsay Shoulders:

    DOs

    • DO exaggerate your movements inside the costume. Practicing in front of a mirror helps to get into character and develop his or her personality.
    • DO have fun with the character; always keep Superfrogs personality in mind while in public. Be friendly, upbeat and energetic.
    • Always move. Work the crowd, play with kids, give lots of hugs and high-fives, run around, do cartwheels, etc.
    • Remember that people are always watching you, even if you are hiding behind a large object. Be patient with little kids, even when they pull on you-parents are always watching.  
    • Remember to stay “in character.” You represent TCU Athletics and the University at all times. Do not make any movements that could be considered lewd or suggestive.
    • When giving autographs, please write SF #1, so that we are sending a consistent message 
    • DO have an assistant or escort to help you dress and to aid in interacting with the public. Characters are occasionally victimized by individuals and do need protection.
    • Remember to check to make sure that the batteries in the fan unit are still charges. 
    • Make sure that the helmet is adjusted to fit your head properly.
    • DO take frequent breaks. The Superfrog outfit is hot and somewhat confining. It is important to wear the costume for short periods of time and. drink plenty of water to replace easily depleted body fluids.
    • DO wear a clean, dry t-shirt and shorts inside the costume. Dressing in the character is like wearing a winter coat in the summer. Remember that the best air conditioner is a positive attitude!

            
    DON’Ts

    • DON’T speak while in costume. It is important to stay in character.
    • Please don’t autograph any clothing. Only sign promotional items or a piece of paper.
    • DON’T take the head off in public. Go to a resting area to take a break away from the public. Children love Superfrog and to see him minus a head spoils the magic. •DON’T eat or drink while in public. Always eat in your designated rest area during your break time.
    • Never make any quick or jerky movements toward little children, as it may frighten them.
    • DON’T pick up children – they will not be expecting it. Besides hugging kids, please don’t touch people (including fans, staff, alumni, kids, interns, etc.)
    • DON’T be lewd or display inappropriate behavior, even if there is a terrible call made.