REP Corner: Brutus Buckeye

Edition: September 2010 - Vol 18 Number 09
Article#: 3550
Author: Laura Thill

Wearing the head is not such a bad deal. That is, not if the eyes, nose and mouth belong to Brutus Buckeye, one mascot that generally attracts fans from at least 49 states (Michigan excluded). For Bill Rumple, a 2005 graduate of the OSU Fisher School of Business and currently a sales rep with Midmark Corp. (Versailles, Ohio), Brutus inspires fond memories. “I was Brutus from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2005,” he says. “It sounds funny, but people really do roll out the red carpet for [Brutus]. I used to love taking the elevator up to the president’s box to mingle with everyone. I also would take breaks in the home locker room and chat with the police officers who guarded the entrance.”

True, inside the mascot head it can get as hot as 20 degrees above the temperature outdoors, which can be challenging at summer parades and early fall football games. But, for the most part, wearing the costume is a breeze, Rumple recalls. “The outfit is great to wear,” he says. “It is very mobile. The head isn’t as heavy as you would think. And [Brutus] can do just about anything and go anywhere [he’d] like.”

Becoming Brutus

At the start of his freshman year at OSU, Rumple quickly discovered that life on a large campus could be both overwhelming and alienating. “In high school, I was always very involved in athletics and contemplated going to a small college to play football,” he says. “I finally decided to attend a large university and give up sports.” While he did not regret trading football for the hustle and bustle of a large university setting, he did miss the sense of school involvement that comes from being a team member.

Then, his college roommates pointed out an ad for Brutus tryouts, he recalls. He showed up for the two-day audition process, which included “an interview and a Brutus skit in costume, among other things.” The tryouts are judged by former Brutus Buckeye mascots, the OSU cheerleading coach and several other individuals associated with OSU athletics, notes Rumple. The audition ran smoothly and, as it turns out, was a tipping point in his college career. “In the spring of 2002, I got the job as Brutus Buckeye,” he says.

Once selected to fill the Brutus head and represent one of the most widely recognized college-level sports institutions, new mascots receive a crash-course from a former mascot, Rumple explains. “You are given guidelines for how to present yourself, but the job is really yours to make your own,” he says. “Creativity and trust are the two main things The Ohio State University looks for in Brutus.”

Rumple recalls driving through Columbus with a former Brutus Buckeye mascot, “popping into random restaurants and businesses to practice being Brutus.” Once back in the car, they would discuss how the appearance went and how Rumple could improve his mascot act. After all, on the field or off, Brutus Buckeye represents a school of more than 50,000.

All in a day’s work

The folks at OSU may treat their mascot like royalty, but they expect a lot in return. “It’s more than a part time job,” Rumple points out. “Many people know Brutus because they see him at football games. But, the students who portray Brutus have much more responsibility than performing at football games. He covers five varsity sports and appears at functions every week through the entire year. He also takes requests from people through the OSU sports website. We always tried to fit in every event that we could without cramping our academic schedule.

“On game days, we had a very strict schedule,” he continues. “In the morning, we attended the President’s brunch, sprinted to a few tailgates, did a TV shot or two and, depending on whether ESPN’s GameDay show was in town, we had to have the Brutus head ready for them to use on the show. During the game, we usually had several planned appearances in the luxury boxes. But, for the most part, we were on the field entertaining the fans.”

Though daunting, the heavy commitment was not an issue for Rumple. Any temptation to hang up his costume and join his buddies at a tailgate party “quickly disappeared when I thought about leading the team out on the field in front of 105,000 fans,” he says. Indeed, there were too many experiences he would miss if he left his mascot responsibilities, including the sense of fulfillment he got after donning his costume and visiting patients at The Ohio State University Medical Center. Or, the thrill of body surfing through the stands and into the infamous student Horse Shoe section where he (Brutus Buckeye) joined other students.

Other especially memorable moments for Rumple as Brutus included:

• Brutus on The College Edition of Jeopardy when the network taped the show at OSU.

• Brutus at the 2003 National Championship game, where The Ohio State University beat Miami University.

• Brutus at the filming of the Capital One Mascot Challenge commercial that aired on ABC during one football and Super Bowl season. (“They flew all of the mascots to New York City and Miami to film the commercials. I got to do the worm across Times Square!”)

• Brutus at the 100th football game between The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan.

• So, Rumple continued as Brutus Buckeye through his senior year of college, knowing he “could watch the games with my friends for the rest of my life.”

As for balancing his responsibilities as Brutus with his studies, well, for the most part, that worked out, too. “At times it was very difficult, but I think I managed them well,” he says. “I remember one day when I had to study for an exam during the afternoon, be Brutus at a women’s volleyball game at St. John’s Arena that night, sprint home to my house on campus in the Brutus outfit while cars honked and fans screamed, ‘Go Bucks!” and change clothes to meet my friends for an intramural playoff football game. That was a great day … minus the exam!”

The guy in the head

Though for most of his time in the public eye he was burrowed deep inside his Brutus Buckeye costume, Rumple was acknowledged for a job well done. “Unlike many colleges and universities, OSU does not keep the identity of Brutus a secret,” he says. “During the second-to-last football game, our mug shots without the head are put on the jumbo screen, along with our name, college and hometown. My parents got a big kick out of that, especially seeing my small hometown, Rockford, Ohio, on the screen.” The university newspaper also features an article about the students who play Brutus Buckeye, he adds. “The person inside the outfit definitely gets the credit.”

That said, it wasn’t always about the credit due, notes Rumple. The experience of playing Brutus continues to impact his life for the better. “Just a few months ago, a fellow Midmark employee called me and asked if I could send something Brutus-related to his son, a huge Brutus fan. I signed a picture of me as Brutus and mailed it to him. A week later, I received a call from my co-worker’s son, who was completely awestruck. To me, it was a picture of Brutus. To him, it meant so much more. While it really was Brutus the boy wanted to speak with, and not Bill Rumple, it gives me a great feeling to know I can bring happiness into people’s lives through another figure.”

Integrity, trust, commitment

Rumple joined Midmark about a year ago. The transition was a relatively easy one. “I noticed right away that the same qualities The Ohio State University looks for in Brutus applicants are those that Midmark looks for in their employees,” says Rumple. “Integrity, trust, hard work, commitment, relationship-building, and the ability to set goals are essential to both organizations. But, just as importantly, both OSU and Midmark like to have a good time and put on a great show! At Midmark, we like the saying, ‘Why tell somebody something when you can show them!’”

Not only that, the experience of being the mascot for such a large institution helped Rumple learn to be confident and comfortable in a large setting. “As Brutus, it seemed that every week I was attending a new event held by a different college,” he recalls. “The University might have had 50,000 students, but it never felt that way to me. This has been a tremendous help in my sales career. Even though I am involved with a large institution, I’ve never felt afraid to call upon the larger companies or health systems. Midmark prides itself on working with our clients, no matter what the size, in order to find the most efficient and effective healthcare solutions to fill their needs.”

Even now, Rumple usually attends several football games each season. “I really enjoy watching Brutus perform,” he says. “I now help the OSU panel choose the students who audition to be Brutus. So, not only do I watch Brutus for fun, I watch to make sure I did a good job of selecting the right student!

“The Ohio State University has been blessed over the last several years with a great group of dedicated students who have raised the bar for Brutus. The key is for students to embrace this role so that they leave something behind for others to use in the future.” For Rumple’s part, he gave OSU the idea for Brutus to do ‘the worm” across the end zone or pose with flexed biceps. “After seeing that, who wouldn’t want to be Brutus?”