At sporting events, he walks along the sidelines in his blue and gold jersey. He gives high fives and hugs to children and adults. He stops periodically to take pictures with fans and dances along to the marching band’s music.
No one knows who is under the costume, but fans talk to him like they’re talking to their best friend. To them, he is simply “Flash,” Kent State's charismatic eagle mascot.
Before the university adopted the eagle to represent its sports teams, it went through a series of different mascots and characters over the years.
Kent State's first mascot appeared when the university was still known as the Kent State Normal College, according to Cara Gilgenbach and Theresa Walton in their book, “Kent State University Athletics.”
Want Flash at your next event?
For Kent State on-campus events, Flash can make an appearance for $50, and for Kent State off-campus events, he costs $50 plus 50 cents for every mile he has to travel. Corporate and private events cost $100.
In 1923, Kent State became home to the Kent State Silver Foxes in honor of the school’s first president, John McGilvrey, who owned a silver fox ranch.
Just three years later, a contest was held to determine Kent State’s new mascot. The winner was given a $25 prize, and in 1926, the Kent State Golden Flashes were born. The name caught on when Oliver Wolcott, a Kent State football player, told the new name to a local newspaper editor.
“The Golden Flash originated back in 1926, but the symbols to represent the Flash have changed over the years,” said Kristan Dolan, athletic program officer. “They’ve ranged from the lightning bolt logos [and] even to a golden retriever, whose name was Mac the Flash, and then, finally, the current golden eagle, Flash.”
According to the University Library website, the golden retriever Flash was adopted as the mascot in 1951. Ten years later, it was replaced by a cartoon character named Grog. Grog remained the school’s mascot until 1972 when the “Golden Flasher” was adopted. According to the library's website, the Golden Flasher was a masked figure dressed in blue and gold who rode a gold palomino horse.
Just two seasons later, in 1973, the masked figure lost the horse and began sporting a lightning bolt in each hand. He became known simply as Golden Flash. This new mascot lasted only a couple of years.
In 1985, the athletic department decided to unveil a new mascot during homecoming. They decided the mascot would be a golden eagle to correspond with the Golden Flashes name.
“Students in the Kent technology and education club put about 265 hours of work into constructing a giant egg out of wood, plaster and fiber-glass,” Dolan said. “They created this nest for the egg to nestle in. It was going to be this big mystery thing — this big mystery egg.”
Dolan said the egg was presented during halftime at the homecoming game, and it hatched to reveal Kent State's new mascot. A live eagle and handler were brought in for the game, and a new logo — featuring an eagle with a lightning bolt coming out of its wing — was created. Dolan said this is the logo that can still be seen on the Kent State water tower.
The golden eagle has remained the mascot to this day, but the current Flash – the costumed bird that dances and pumps up the crowds on game day – was introduced in 1994.
Former Flashes weigh in
“[The suit was] hotter than hell,” said Tim Montgomery, who played Flash from 2000 to 2004. “You can sweat off five to 10 pounds in a game.”
Montgomery said he bought a liquid crystal thermometer during his senior year and taped it into the head of the Flash costume. When he checked it later, it read 125 degrees. He said it was all worth it, though.
“It was such a great experience,” Montgomery said. “You’re representing the university and community.”
When Montgomery attended Kent State, he was the only Flash, but now there are several at a time.
Many of the students who play Flash keep their identities hidden because it adds to the mascot's mystery and believability. One of the current Flashes, who wishes to remain anonymous, said before he was a student at Kent State, he went to a football game and got a picture with Flash.
“I said, ‘I’m going to do this one day,’ and it’s been one of the better decisions of my college career,” he said. “You get to be goofy and dance around, then you can walk out and [people] don’t know you. It’s like a secret identity.”
This Flash, who has played the mascot for two years, said one of his favorite moments in the costume was the first game of the 2012 football season. He said he stood in front of the student section, and there were so many people screaming and cheering.
“It’s all the school spirit I really love,” he said. “As Flash, you’re kind of the center of the school spirit.”
Phillip Torres, a Kent State alumnus, has been one of the Flashes for nearly a year. He said he enjoys the televised games.
“It’s great to represent the university on a national stage,” Torres said.
Montgomery said when he was Flash, his favorite part was seeing the look on people’s faces. He said he always tried to make a point to spend time with people in wheelchairs who couldn’t come to him.
“Seeing their faces light up,” Montgomery said. “There was nothing better than that; no better feeling.”
Contact Kirsten Bowers at email@example.com.