WVU's Mountaineer is 'living the dream'
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To Mountaineer fans everywhere, Jonathan Kimble is the face of WVU. The Mountaineer mascot presents a different face to ESPN GameDay commentator Lee Corso.
Each year, ESPN produces humorous commercials to promote College GameDay during football season. In one released last week featuring WVU, hosts Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler interview head football coach Dana Holgorsen, while Corso hovers in the background and stares off screen.
When Herbstreit asks Corso if he has any questions for Holgorsen, a distracted Corso asks, "Yeah, what's that guy looking at?" -- as the camera pans to Kimble in full buckskins and coonskin cap, crouching with his rifle and staring down Corso.
"They started airing those commercials last week. I knew exactly when they ran because I would get all kinds of tweets and texts," Kimble said. "It was great to see them on the air as we went into the Baylor game, our first Big 12 game."
Kimble, Holgorsen and the GameDay crew shot the promos in California on USC's campus in May. It's one of several on-camera gigs that Kimble might not have expected when he was named Mountaineer last February. He also traveled to the Big 12 Conference media day in Dallas and met the other 11 mascots, all of whom wear costumes that cover their faces, which inhibit their ability to talk.
"I got to meet them outside their costumes and talk to them," Kimble said. "The mascots put on a great show and joke around, but I'm lucky because I get to communicate with people everywhere I go. I like to tell them great things about West Virginia."
He's all over the promotional pieces, commercials, billboards and photos the university produces. Those extra shootings, on top of the more than 250 appearances he's already made since he assumed duties in April, have taken Kimble's profile up a couple of notches from that of previous Mountaineer mascots.
"Everyone tells me this has to be the best year to be the Mountaineer," said Kimble, who's a graduate student from Franklin. "It's a historic season, with the Big 12. It's just amazing. I've tried out for this position for several years and am thrilled to be here now."
WVU is one of four colleges featured in the 2012 GameDay promos. The other three are the University of South Florida, University of Southern California and the University of Georgia.
"I've always watched those commercials and laughed. Now I get to be part of one and represent WVU in a national commercial," he said. "It was an incredible trip. I got to know the GameDay crew. They were all so relaxed and fun."
Maybe too relaxed. The 30-second commercial took about half a day to film. The GameDay crew, especially Herbstreit, kept laughing and Corso couldn't keep a straight face. There's no question in Kimble's mind that he would win an actual stare-down contest with Corso.
Kimble's heard lots of enthusiastic comments about the commercial, as well as the WVU's school promo, "Without Challenge, There Can Be No Mountaineers." In it, a determined Kimble runs through the woods, dodging obstacles until he emerges on a rocky outcrop overlooking a breathtaking view of a forested river valley. It was shot at Coopers Rock, outside Morgantown.
The physical challenge of running through the woods for that video dwindles considerably in comparison to those presented by football games with high scores. Every time the Mountaineers score, Kimble does one pushup for each point on the scoreboard. Quarterback Geno Smith and his explosive offense present a challenge, racking up 70 points in the Baylor game and 69 points against Marshall.
"I did 385 pushups on Saturday. I wouldn't mind doing it again because it should mean we're winning," said Kimble, who trained all summer in anticipation of big offensive numbers. He was back in the gym as usual the Monday after the Baylor game.
Kimble's disciplined approach to his workouts mirrors the organization required to keep up with his studies as a full-time graduate student studying industrial relations. He also finds time for outdoor activities, including a recent bear-hunting session in which he brought along his trademark rifle.
The rifle is passed down through the years, but each Mountaineer has his own set of custom-made buckskins. He is responsible for cleaning them himself and uses a special solution on the buckskin jersey and trousers, which get sodden with sweat during hot games with high pushup-prompting scores.
It's all in a day's work for Kimble, who said he wouldn't trade the job for any other.
"There's nothing I don't like about the job," he said. "I love it all. I'm living the dream."
Reach Julie Robinson at email@example.com or 304-348-1230.