NEW MADRID - It's Friday night and Jake Baehr suits up for another New Madrid County Eagles football game. But instead of helmet and pads, he grabs a rubber chicken and some sign board. And as far as his uniform - well, it's for the birds. You see, Baehr is the New Madrid County Central Eagle.
Donning the mascot uniform, said Baehr, a junior at NMCC, wasn't a difficult decision. When the call went out for individuals to fill the school's new mascot uniform, he thought about it and decided to give it a shot.
"I thought this is me because I'm a clown anyway. It sounded like fun," he said.
Baehr developed a dance routine based on 1960s music and other pop tunes, performing it before a selection committee in August. He earned the spot and began working to develop the personality of the Eagle, dubbed Egor.
"To me, the school mascot is there to get the crowd rolling and to develop school spirit," said Baehr. To do this he has his own bag of Eagle props from WWF attire to a dogcatcher's outfit to oversized sunglasses, along with his rubber chicken.
The mascot never speaks but the crowd knows what he wants. Baehr has sign boards he raises when he is looking for cheers and jeers from the Eagles' fans.
Along the sidelines, Baehr has found that he delights most in the youngest fans. Like the Pied Piper, he leads children along as he dances and works the crowd.
"I like to see the little kids smile at me," he admits. "I was surprised at first to see the smiles on their faces. It makes you feel good when they start grinning when the Eagle walks around the corner to meet them."
Other perks include hanging out with the members of the football team and the cheerleaders, said Baehr.
About the only down side, the Lilbourn resident could come up with it as the school mascot is hot weather. The uniform is made up of a heavy fur and during the first few games it was uncomfortably warm as he danced and worked to get the crowd support.
Also rainy weather grounds the Eagle. He doesn't want water to damage the costume.
While he was nervous at the first game, Baehr easily slips into the Eagle persona now. "Once I put the character on and start to dance it is like I absorbed the crowd's support," he explained.
When he isn't studying for his classes, Baehr said he is thinking about what he might do for the next game. Preparation is a big part of the role of mascot.
"It takes a lot of hard work. Some people think it wouldn't be but there is a lot of background work to it," he said. "Right now we are going week by week, planning as we go."
Working with Baehr to develop some of the ideas is the NMCC cheerleading sponsor Janie Jones. Baehr and Jones each credit the other with the popularity of the mascot.
"She has helped me a lot," said Baehr.
But Jones counters that it his efforts which have made the mascot such a success. She noted that since the Eagle doesn't speak, Baehr must use his movements to express a variety of emotions and to involve the crowd.
"He has a super personality. He is very expressive and so funny. The kids love him and the adults like to watch him," she said. "The eagle is Jake."
The son of Danny Baehr and Debbie Baehr, he is also a member of the Art Society and the Singing Eagles as well as being a top-notch student. He even is thinking about a future as a mascot, pointing out a lot of colleges have mascot uniforms to fill.
But today he isn't thinking that far down the road. Tonight brings another home game and he is busy contemplating how to greet the Dyersburg, Tenn., team and its fans.