Baby, you can call me Al

Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

David Rountree practiced his dance to Sugar Hill Gang's "Apache" for two days to get ready for Monday night.

The fourth-year political science major was one of six hopefuls who auditioned to appear as Albert the Alligator at football games, basketball games, swim meets, tennis matches, community appearances and private events this semester.

With three Alberts on the squad already, mascot coach Amber Kosinsky was looking to add two more to rotate as Albert in making 300 to 500 appearances a year. Extras

See a would-be Albert's audition

Rountree said he was nervous before the audition. As an avid Gator sports fan, he said, "This would just make my career at UF."

Kosinsky addressed the wannabe Alberts before the audition. She said whoever got the job would have to be a "huggable, lovable Albert," and be someone children could approach. She also warned that the interior of the suit was an average of 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding air.

Judging began with interviews.

When Rountree was asked, "What do you think Albert represents to the university?" he shared his first memory of seeing Albert "going crazy" when the Gators scored at a basketball game. "It makes the moment for me," he said.

Next, each candidate put on the Albert suit and practiced moving while current Alberts and Albertas coached them on body language.

David Schur, who is now on the squad, explained to hopeful Thomas Gabriel, "Albert is manly. He is expressive but not too expressive."

Tricia Hearne, a second-year student and co-captain of the mascot squad, instructed on constant movement.

"You can never just stand still, because then you'll just look like a person in a suit," she said as one of the candidates balanced Albert's head on her shoulders for the first time.

Hearne said she missed auditions her freshman year, so she spent the time until the next audition going to all the home games and studying the way Alberta moved.

"The cool thing about being a mascot is to not be yourself," she said, "to be crazy and show your spirit without being yourself."

She said the best candidates would be the ones who could show the judges they could have fun with the role.

Once the hopefuls were comfortable in the suit, they each performed an original dance to a song of their choice, performed to the UF fight song and finally improvised to a randomly selected hip-hop dance song.

One used a prop lasso while dancing to "Sweet Home Alabama," while another pantomimed to a Saturday Night Live skit parodying Blue Oyster Cult's cowbell-heavy hit "Don't Fear the Reaper."

After the dancing and chomping was over, Kosinsky told the candidates to watch their e-mail today for an announcement of the two chosen Alberts.

Auditions for both Albert and Alberta will be held again in April, she said, and returning team members must audition again then.

Rountree said he would be very happy if his preparation paid off.

"I like having fun, and I like watching people have fun," he said. "If I'm the instigator of fun, that would make my day."

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