The secret life of the Jackrabbit

Through the construction that has changed the look of campus and the thousands of students that have come and gone, there is one thing that has remained the same on South Dakota State University’s campus — Jack the Jackrabbit.

According to Jack, being SDSU’s mascot is a secretive job. Only a handful of people know who really wears the suit.

“I was told that I should only tell the people that needed to know and would notice I was gone for stuff,” Jack said. “Some of my close friends, I’d say five or less, know.”

According to Jack, there are advantages to keeping his true identity secret. Jack enjoys hearing about his performance during games from his friends, who have no idea he is the person in the suit.

Although students do not know who Jack is, high-fives and fist bumps are an endless greeting for the mascot around campus. 

According to Jack, he gets invited to events both on campus, such as the Jail Bail for State-A-Thon, and off campus to promote groups and provide entertainment. Jack recently took a trip to the Larson Ice Center along with other mascots in town during a Blizzard hockey match.

“After the second period, we all got asked to go out on the ice and they gave us these plastic sleds and…they slicked down a lane with the Zamboni and started to set up mats against the wall and [put up] bowling pins and then all of a sudden I see this large bungee cord spread across the width of the ice arena and I’m starting to put the pieces together holding my sled that I was going to be a bowling ball,” Jack said.

Jack said that he won mascot bowling by knocking over four pins, making him proud for representing SDSU and winning. 

Jack shows his support by going to endless events. 

“There was an event where we went and supported a young Jack’s fan who passed away, so we traveled a couple hours away in South Dakota with the Dance Team and the Cheer Team just to show SDSU support for the young fan,” Jack said.

The most regular events Jack attends are sporting events on campus. He typically arrives at Frost Arena about 45 minutes before the basketball games and suits up. His routine has the occasional difficulty.

 “Sometimes it’s hard tracking down the jersey, so I’ve learned now to look for that before you start getting dressed because then you have to undress and then go find the jersey because it’s usually in the equipment room so some of that stuff is learn as you go,” Jack said.

With Jack running around at events, the person in the suit works up a sweat. The temperature inside of the suit is much greater than outside.

“Rule of thumb: it’s about 30 degrees warmer in the suit than wherever you are. It’s most comfortable when you have a cold football game,” Jack said.

With that heat, the suit tends to gain an odor if not washed. Kathy Larsen, substitute teacher coordinator for the Brookings School District, volunteers to clean Jack’s suit. According to Larsen, the cleaning process is complicated because of the size and material the suit is made of.

“I wash it and I always line dry it. The head is all washed by hand and I have a special formula that I use to take the odor out of it,” Larsen said. “The head alone takes a couple of hours to do.”

Regardless of the amount of time it takes, cleaning Jack’s suit has become routine for Larsen since she has been cleaning the suit for around 20 years.

“It’s an honor for me to keep Jack clean,” Larsen said. “ I love Jack, I still like getting my picture taken with Jack.”

Jack has become a symbol of school spirit for SDSU and its fans, young and old.

“I love to see the young boys and girls and whenever I’m just walking around you can hear them yelling ‘Jack, Jack!’ and they’re likely trying to be held back by their parents but they’re just too excited so they have to run up to you,” Jack said. “It’s really great to see how enthused they are to see Jack and be at SDSU.”