With football season just around the corner and the Olympics getting under way, it seems like now is the best time to talk about everyone’s favorite mascot. I’m obviously talking about Rameses. Rameses has been the official mascot of the North Carolina Tar Heels since 1924. The story is right out of a fairy tale…minus the prince charming and instead a prince ram from the state of Texas.
This is what happened. Head cheerleader Vic Huggins noticed a lack of school spirit for the Tar Heels. So instead of making the school’s mascot a giant foot with black muck on the heel, he suggested that the team make its mascot a ram. The idea was based on UNC’s star football player, Jack Merritt, who was nicknamed, the “Battering Ram.”
Huggins received the okay from the athletic business manager and $25 dollars later, Rameses I was plucked out of Texas and inserted into the UNC lineup of mascots. The story sounds great and interesting but what happened next is where the fairy tale with prince ram became known.
Picture this; UNC was playing Virginia Military Institute in football. After three quarters the game was tied 0-0. Sounds like a boring game, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t there, but that’s what I’ve been told. It was time for one last desperation attempt to break the scoreless tie. Insert UNC’s kicker, Bunn Hackney. Before taking the field, Hackney rubbed Rameses’ head for some good luck. He took the field, lined up, and nailed a 30-yard DROP KICK for the win. Fairy tale ending. Roll credits. Rameses stuck and has been the mascot ever since.
So when did the costume version come into existence? The school wanted a mascot that could attend indoor events. Due to popular demand, in 1987-1988 the first costume version of Rameses was officially established at UNC. However, the first version was not well received and described as “wimpy.” Changes were made, and in 1989, a meaner looking mascot debuted and helped shape the version of what you see today.
The costume version of Rameses has evolved ever since first being established as UNC’s mascot. Just last year, a smaller, more friendlier-looking version of Rameses was created. This newly beloved mascot came to be known as Rameses Junior, or RJ. This was put into place to be more appealing to small children who found the mean-looking mascot scary and discomforting.
I went back and forth on whether to talk about this because I really only associate the good with Rameses. However, I decided to address the dark times that Rameses has endured.
In 1996 someone snuck onto the farm in which Rameses XXIII lived and killed the beautiful creature. The man was later caught and it was discovered that he was drunk and charged with animal cruelty and being a terrible human being.
In 2007, Jason Ray, the student dressed as the costume version of Rameses, was hit and killed by a van while walking on the road in New Jersey for the Tar Heels Sweet Sixteen matchup with the University of Southern California. Jason Ray helped save the lives of 118 people by being an organ donor. As a result, UNC renamed its transplant clinic to the “Jason Ray Transplant Clinic.”
Over time, there have been a total of 22 Rameses, including the current one, which recently became the father to twins during the Final Four this past year.
Speaking of the Final Four, the current Rameses was not punched after the Villanova game. I repeat, he was not punched after the Villanova game. He was, instead, bumped by workers setting up the stage for the ceremony, and tripped over a cheerleader’s foot. I’ve heard many things about what happened, including getting punched by a Villanova fan, and even heard rumors that a fellow UNC fan hit him. It is surprising how many people still think this is the case. So there it is, rumor debunked. I feel like the dudes from Myth Busters.
Anyways, Rameses has a deep and historical history that UNC fans should be proud of. From the game-winning kick, to the men like Jason Ray who wore the costume proudly and made the university even prouder through his heroic actions. It will be fun to see what other great things this mascot brings to the university for years to come.