SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Over the years, Syracuse University’s world renowned mascot, Otto the Orange, has been the very fabric and image of the university. Now, the identity of the three seniors who have brought Otto to life has been revealed.
Justin Stitt, Taylor Koennecke and Ikuo Kobayashi, are Syracuse University seniors and have devoted much of their time at SU to bring smiles and joy to children’s faces through Otto the Orange. The three seniors took to Instagram on Friday morning to reveal their big secret.
“It’s a side of me I haven’t shared with many people,” said Justin Stitt. “A lot of us, when we join the program, we see Otto’s how happy they make people on campus, and so getting that chance to do it for other people and kinda pass that torch down the line is awesome, and certainly keeps you going.”
Taylor Koennecke, is a Syracuse native and was in the suit when the 2003 National Championship Syracuse Men’s basketball team was honored in the Dome. “I got to high five them all, one of them dunked on Otto,” said Koennecke. “Being someone from Syracuse, New York what’s the odds I’m going to be a celebrity.”
Ikuo Kobayashi, was born and raised in Japan. “It’s really nice being able to act like a child again,” said Kobayashi. “As Otto I could do things I could never do if I wasn’t in the suit.”
The work that goes into bringing Otto to life is extensive, and the hours are long. “You might think, what does a mascot do to work out,” said Koennecke. “There’s agility, there will be arm day, there will be leg day. It’s hard.”
Similar to any other D1 Athlete, Otto the Orange has a coach.
“A lot of it involves recruiting and training a team, building team dynamics,” said Julie Walas who is Otto’s coach. “They’ve been putting years and hours into this, and in some ways, they get a lot of recognition because Otto is there, and in other ways, they get no recognition because no one knows it’s them.”
For Julie Walas, and the three seniors, saying goodbye to each other is an emotional experience.
“Once you’re an Otto, you’re always an Otto,” said Stitt. “As I said before, it’s going to be bittersweet, it’s hit me too many times already, but then again, maybe it’s not too many times if you don’t realize how special this moment is in the University community.”