How Tech Ticks


by Travis Williams

HokieBird in the locker room

Hanging out in the locker room

While attending his first Virginia Tech football game during his freshman year, Cody Lopez saw into into his future.

“The HokieBird was on the 50-yard line, cartwheeling around in circles, and I was like, that is literally the coolest thing I’ve seen in my entire life,” said the 2016 graduate.

 Hokie Bird stats

“I took a photo of him with my iPod Touch from way up in the south endzone and posted it to Instagram, thinking, ‘That’s going to be me some day,’” Lopez said.

In 2013 Lopez made good on his prediction. Donning the iconic Chicago maroon costume, Lopez joined an elite group of students who live a secret double life, spending hours each week entertaining Hokies and representing Virginia Tech at everything from athletic events to weddings.

Serving as Virginia Tech’s beloved mascot is an experience. Afforded to just a handful of students each year, the opportunity positions them at the forefront of Hokie Nation’s love and admiration, not to mention in the receiving line for countless high-fives and oh-so-many hugs.

“That was the best thing about being the HokieBird. There are a lot of emotions that people aren’t afraid to show a mascot,” Lopez said. “If they’re excited, they’re excited. If they’re upset, they’re upset. And no matter how they are feeling, it’s made better by being with the HokieBird.”

By the numbers

5’ 10”  Average HokieBird height.
10 lbs.  The most weight a HokieBird has lost during a single day of performing.
15  The ranking of the HokieBird’s Twitter account, @TheHokieBird, according the University of Tennessee’s university mascot social media rankings.
$5,000  Total cost of the suit.
The HokieBird visits the training room
The HokieBird visits the training room.

Did you know?

The HokieBird is gender neutral, representing all Hokies everywhere.

History of the HokieBird

Early 1900—Student athletes begin to be known as “Gobblers.” The origin of the term is in dispute, but by 1909 football coach Branch Bocock initiates the “Gobbler Club.”

1913—Local resident Floyd Meade is selected as the school’s mascot by the student body. He trains a large turkey to pull a cart, gobble on command, and perform other tricks at football games.

1924—The nickname Gobblers is commonly used by sports reporters.

1936—A costumed Gobbler joins the live turkey for at least one game. The live turkey continues to be present until the 1950s.

1962—The first permeant costumed Gobbler takes to the field at a football game.

Late 1970s—A new football coach dislikes the nickname “Gobblers” and begins promoting “Hokies” as a replacement.

1982—The mascot is changed to look more like a maroon cardinal, and the terms “the Hokie mascot,” “the Hokie,” and “the Hokie bird” began to be used.

1987—The modern costume makes its first appearance under the name “HokieBird.” This is also most likely the year students started the tradition of revealing their role as the HokieBird by wearing the feet during their graduation ceremony.

This story appeared in the Virginia Tech Magazine in the Fall 2002 edition. It was written by then-editor Sherry Bithell (now the assistant vice president for marketing communications at Stevenson University). We hope you enjoy this look back at a more in-depth history of our favorite mascot.

Former HokieBird Q&A

What was the best part of being the HokieBird?

It was always so energizing to walk around anywhere from a tailgate to a residence hall and see how excited fans were to see you. It makes you so proud to be a part of this community because while we were just students in a furry suit, the spirit and passion that the HokieBird evokes in students, alumni, and fans shows the power and strength of Hokie Nation.—Chris Saccoccia ‘12

To identify yourself as a Hokie is one thing, but when you represent and embody the face of the school, that is something pretty special. Seeing people light up no matter the age and you bringing some semblance of joy to their lives, even if short lived, is extraordinarily rewarding.—Jared Stollar ‘13

The best part of being the HokieBird was seeing the faces light up with a smile as I would approach and interact with peopleā€¦More often than not, I found myself smiling behind the mask while posing for photos.—AJ Yost ‘15

What’s your favorite memory from your days as a mascot?

Getting to work the Battle at Bristol, college football’s biggest game ever. I ended up losing 10 pounds that day from working [ESPN] College Gameday at 6:30 a.m. to the end of the game. But I got to meet Michael Vick and go around to a bunch of tailgates and walk the team into the stadium, so it was an amazing experience.—Connor Dixon ‘17

I was walking down the stands [in Cassel Colosseum] and I noticed a woman wanted to take a picture, but she was having trouble communicating with me because she was deaf. I had learned a little bit of sign language from my sister and was able to sign to her in the suit. Seeing her face when she realized I was signing was just so special to me, and we were able to get a picture together.—Chris Rakes ‘17

My favorite thing to do, if I saw people at a booth at Deets, I would run and hit the window as if I was a bird flying into the window and slide down.—Cody Lopez ‘16

I once got in a real fight with another mascot (the JMU DukeDog) not the planned-out kind—which we had to do going forward haha! Their cheerleaders ganged up on me as well.... all because I was taunting their crowd with a stuffed dog in a dog catchers net—OOPS!—Whitney Bauman ’06, ‘08.

HokieBird working out on a treadmill
It takes a lot of training time for the HokieBird to stay in shape.

What did you learn from being the HokieBird?

Playing the HokieBird has reminded me to stay grounded and to keep giving back to the community I’m in.—Adam Kendrick ‘10

I’ve learned to be WAY more comfortable with other people’s sweat now since we would sometimes have to share the same suit during events.—Victoria Tran ‘15

Being the HokieBird has shown me that making someone’s day is one of the most valuable and gratifying things. It has also emphasized the importance of not taking life too seriously and that people can really be affected by the actions of others.—Rachel Anderson ‘18

See a gallery of images of the HokieBird.