The Girl Behind the Bird

by Kelly Fitzpatrick on October 20, 2016
The Girl Behind the Bird

Hello, Purple Eagles!

While our student blog posts are usually updates on what has been going on recently around campus and in our academic lives, I am going to use this one to let you all in on something that I have (semi-secretly) been up to over the past three years.

My friends already know this about me, but there are many others out there who are unaware of the very close relationship that I have come to form with the most important guy at Niagara University. 

While we could not ask for a better representative of Niagara and all that we stand for than Father Maher, it is actually not him that I am referring to right now. Nor is it a member of the Board of Trustees, a professor, a priest, or any other staff member for that matter. It’s the guy with the purple feathers and the beak that makes the Niagara University community the “Purple Eagles” that we are so proud to be!

That’s right, I’m talking about Monte. Every student that ever was, is, or will be a Purple Eagle knows him all too well. We wear him proudly on our NU apparel, high-five him at games and recognize him as a symbol of Niagara. However, over the past three years, I have been lucky enough to know him differently than most. I’ve seen him from an entirely different perspective – from behind the beak.

I have been involved in countless clubs, organizations and events throughout my time at Niagara, but the part of my involvement that I get most excited to tell people about is the fact that I dress as the university mascot. There are so many groups and organizations that have impacted my time here and are so near to my heart, but there is something truly unique and special to me about being a part of Monte’s “flock,” as we birds call it. 

When I say that I am Monte, people often ask questions like, “Isn’t it hot in there?” “Does it smell?” “Is it hard to see and walk?” and “Are people ever afraid of you?” While the answer to all of these questions is, “yes,” being Monte is so much more than that. When we are in that suit, we have one job and one job only. It is up to us to represent Niagara and bring whatever event we are at the energy that it deserves. 

Monte is about changing the energy in the gym or arena without saying a single word. Monte is about welcoming first-year students to their new home and family on their move-in day. Monte is about joining the N-Zone during Canisius games and rallying the student body with school pride and in the spirit of rivalry. Monte is about dancing like no one is watching, knowing perfectly well that everyone is. 

Every time that I enter the room while in the costume, I am instantly reminded of how important that job is – how much Monte means to NU. Hugs and high-fives can go a long way, and no one does that better or more often than Monte.

Small children, current students and alumni alike light up when Monte comes over to offer hugs or show off some dance moves. I’ve heard on several occasions, “There he is!” when walking into the gym or arena, and that reminder that there are some families looking out especially for Monte is part of what makes us flock members love what we do so much. 

One of the most special experiences that I had as Monte was actually just this semester, when I walked out of Gallagher just as a high school group tour was passing by. I waved and welcomed them as best I could without making a “peep,” and many of them stopped to take photos and show me the Monte images on their T-shirts and sweatshirts. 

As I was in the suit during this process, I just thought about how special I would have found that experience if it had been me on a tour a few years ago. It was such a simple and completely coincidental moment, but that’s the beauty of Monte and what he does. He brings the simplest forms of joy to the most diverse groups of people. 

I have been Monte during the Special Olympic opening ceremonies, the surprise return of a U.S. soldier to his family on the ice at the start of a hockey game, and a buzzer-beater basketball game that had the crowd roaring. All of these experiences, as well as countless others, have warmed my heart in a way that I could have never felt if I had just been another spectator in the stands. Monte’s presence can make such an impact on a moment or experience, and I have been so lucky to have spent the past few years being able to bring such a high level of love, spirit and Purple Pride to the Niagara community.

We have been adding new members to our flock over the past few weeks, and Monte’s busy season is just around the corner. I am beyond excited to give more high-fives than I could ever imagine, practice new dance moves with youth hockey players, join the N-Zone and Danceline during basketball games, hug anyone who needs it, and bring all the spirit in the world through that purple bird in the few months that I have left.

Applying to be Monte was one of the best decisions that I have made here and I am forever grateful for the opportunity that my fellow flock members and I have had to bring so much NU spirit to the table. I have so much love for Monte, and he has definitely built a nest in my heart. He’s been such a major part of my Niagara experience – of all of our Niagara experiences – and I can’t think of any other purple bird out there that’s as loved as he is!

Thanks for the memories, Monte. Let’s get ready to make some more during the 2016-2017 season.

 monte selfie

Thanks for reading, NU! Remember to always fly high.