For the Briody clan, being the UConn mascot is all in the family.
Two generations of this Connecticut family have proudly donned the giant husky dog head and suit and clowned around at football games and other events.
“It’s a whole mindset. You really get into it. It’s a lot of fun,” said Joe Briody ’86 (BUS), ’95 MA, ’96 Ph.D. His children, Caitlin ’17 (CLAS) and Patrick, who is currently a junior, recently were Jonathans as well.
So far, four Briodys have played the spirited dog, high-fiving fans, posing for photos, and engaging in general husky high jinks. “I thought it would be cool to carry on the tradition and be part of it,” Caitlin said. “We’re a big UConn family. So it’s cool to represent the school that way.”
The Briody family tradition started with Joe’s older brother, John ’82 (BUS), ’14 6th Year.
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Secrets of being a Jonathan mascot…
- Rubbing bald heads is part of the job
- Your identity is a top secret
- Sometimes skirmishes with the other mascots go a little too far
- Children are either delighted or terrified to see you
- You have no peripheral vision
- The costume is very warm, good for October football games, bad for hot days
- The suit gets ripe by midsemester
- Two Jonathans work in shifts at football games
“I was going into college already a big sports fan, and it just allowed me to live out being a fan in front of folks,” said John, an elementary school principal in Andover. “I loved being silly and I loved the kids and families.”
Joe decided to carry on the tradition after visiting John at UConn and seeing how much fun he had being Jonathan during a football game. Joe invented the floor slide—running and diving onto the floor and sliding into the camera lens. He even graduated as Jonathan, getting his diploma in a cap and gown.
More recently, Joe’s son, Patrick, decided to try out to be the mascot after looking for ways to get involved his freshman year. He loved going into the stands and interacting with fans. He even had a signature move.
“When kids would pet the head, any time they would go behind the ear, you would get the leg shaking a little bit,” he said, laughing.
Part of the tradition—and challenge—of being Jonathan is keeping your identity a secret. No one is supposed to know who is playing the dog, except perhaps your parents.
“It’s kind of neat doing this thing that not a lot of people know that you do,” Joe said. “You become Jonathan—not Joe in the Jonathan suit, or Patrick in the Jonathan suit. It’s Jonathan and no one knows who’s in there,” he said.
Joe met his wife when he was the mascot. She was an usher at a soccer game and had seen him under the bleachers, adjusting his costume. She tried to get his attention.
“Joe would come by but was interested in the girl I was working with,” Diane Briody ’87 (CLAS), ’95 MA said, laughing. Eventually, Joe caught on and they had their first date at Huskies.
Back in the 80s, the mascot would travel with the team to all the games at rival schools in the Big East, not just post-season games. He remembers one time getting hit in the back of the head with a soda while in the stands at a basketball game in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
“And I was like, ‘I’m gonna find out who this is’ and I turned back around and I’m looking through these one-inch eye holes and a sea of orange people. And they’re all looking back at me like ‘Yeah? What are you gonna do?’ I quickly realized I was way out of my element and I retreated to underneath the basketball hoop where cheerleaders were and had a good time the rest of game.”
“With the hometown crowd, you almost can’t do anything wrong,” said Joe, who currently supervises the mascot as part of his job as associate director of student activities at UConn. “The kids light up when they see you. Either that or they’re scared to pieces. You rub the bald heads, take people’s chairs. It’s just a lot of fun.”