Big Al’s shoes are hard to fill: they are hot, sweaty and weigh twice as much as regular sneakers.
But on April 18, 21 hopefuls entered the basement of Coleman Coliseum in an attempt to fill those shoes and become the next mascot of The University of Alabama.
The search for the mascot was narrowed down to 10 contenders who would go on to test their mascot skills on A-Day.
Only three of the contestants would end up getting the job: Melinda Tilley, a junior majoring in management; Parker Branton, a freshman majoring in telecommunication; and Zack Weston, an incoming freshman from Birmingham.
“When I opened my letter after A-Day to see that I had gotten the job, I was so humbled,” Branton said. “The fact that 21 talented people tried out and only three were selected made me feel honored to become part of the Big Al team.”
The tryouts involved mastering Big Al’s signature walk and an interview portion, where hopefuls were asked questions like what furniture they would be in a house and why. Some were even asked to twerk.
For Weston, it was a whole new world trying out with the college students.
“Being there was like looking into the next chapter of my life,” Weston said.
While Tilley never had any mascot experience prior to tryouts, Branton spent last summer getting ready for it in a more non-conventional way.
“The only mascot experience I have had is when I worked at Little Caesars last summer,” Branton said. “I would stand by the road in the Caesar suit and jump up and down. I enjoyed it a lot better than making the pizzas.”
The finalists were asked to make a prop for A-Day and use it while they were on the field.
“I made a frame that said ‘A-Day 2013’ on the bottom of one side and [would] shake it on the other side. It was supposed to be like a Polaroid picture,” Tilley said.
A-Day crowds can be estimated at up to 80,000 people. For these 10 men and women trying out to be Big Al, the pressure can be almost insurmountable.
“When I got into the suit on A- Day, it was such a surreal moment,” Branton said. “You feel like a celebrity when you walk around the field because everyone wants a picture or autograph from you.”
Big Al not only riles up the crowd on Gameday, but does numerous charity works as well.
Being Big Al is a big responsibility, but that doesn’t mean each one of these new kids doesn’t have a favorite move they like to do on the field other than Al’s signature belly shake.
“My favorite move to do in the Big Al suit is to twerk, drop it low and shake Big Al’s backside when a club-banging song comes on,” Branton said.