While Morningside College football players gear up with shoulder pads and cleats before each home game, Austin Langston is probably busy adjusting his tail and debating whether to slick back his hair or sport a mohawk. Hey, when you're portraying your school's mascot, you want to look the part.
For nearly a year, Langston, a sophomore at Morningside, has represented his school as Monte the Mustang. Every home football game he would dress in a fuzzy brown suit with white pants and maroon jersey. His only line of sight is through Monte's smile made of white mesh material.
His job, Langston said, is to pump up the crowd during football games using only his actions -- his muffled voice is impossible to hear over the roaring fans at Elwood Olson Stadium.
"I gotta keep 'em excited, keep 'em entertained," said Langston, 18. "Sometimes I like to dance in the football games when they score a touchdown or play the school song, and I'll join in on the cheers."
Of course, having people not know who's behind the mask makes it easier to exaggerate movements, but if Langston didn't have the suit on he "would still be dancing." That could be partly attributed to why Langston was chosen to be the new Monte in the first place.
"Apparently people knew me and knew I had a good personality," he said. "It was about the first or second week of school and the cheerleading coach asked me to be the mascot for the football games."
But his first time in the suit wasn't on game day. He got a little bit of practice during a conference at the Sioux City Convention Center. It was there he learned he would need a little help donning the suit. And like a horse wearing blinders, he discovered his line of sight was limited. Langston also learned he probably would run out of his shoes if he moved around too quickly.
Now, Langston is used to the suit, able to perform cartwheels without launching his enlarged sneakers. It's safe to say Langston enjoys his time as the Morningside College mascot.
"I kind of like the attention," he said. "You get to take pictures with a bunch of people. I could make a bunch of funny faces and they can't even tell what I'm doing. A lot of times it's hard for people to believe that I'm the mascot."
Which comes with its benefits. For example, Langston can pull pranks on friends and peers as Monte without them knowing.
"There is this freedom that you get to do whatever you want and people don't know who you are," he said. "It gives you that sense of no identity. It's kind of interesting. You feel more obligated to do that stuff when you're in the suit."
The downside to being Monte for an entire game? As one would imagine, it gets rather hot in a suit covered in fur. But Langston said he's used to the sweat from working out or competing in track and field. The headpiece, however, can be uncomfortable some days.
"It gets heavy and has these pressure points," he said. "If you see me with my hand under my chin, I'm trying to take the pressure off my head."
A quiet crowd also can be a challenge for Langston. There's usually a large group of fans who want their picture taken with Monte, which Langston said is one of the best parts of his job. On a regular day, he will be involved in at least 30 photo opportunities.
"If stands are packed, I'm in a lot of pictures," said Langston.
He added that even after the game is done, his job isn't finished.
"I'm usually pretty exhausted and part of me wants to get out of there and get out of the suit, but a part of me just wants to stay and be enjoyed because people really enjoy being around you," he said. "You're always looking around for people who want to take pictures. What you don't want to have happen is people missing out on an opportunity to take a picture with you."
The most satisfying part of Langston's job, he said, is finally seeing those photos.
"It's just a great time to see the smiles you've brought to people's faces."