Drake University is represented not only by their students and staff, but also by the live mascot Griff II who attends all the events around Des Moines.
Erin Bell is the associate director of marketing in charge of the live mascot program and the owner of Griff II, or George, as her family calls him.
The journey of having a live mascot began in 2009 with the first-ever Beautiful Bulldog Contest, which Bell won with her dog Porterhouse. There was no live mascot at this time at Drake, so Porterhouse was uniquely embraced by the community during Relays week.
Typically, the winners of the Beautiful Bulldog Contest get around a week of fame and then head back to their normal lives, but that wasn’t the case for Porterhouse and his family. Bell was asked to bring Porterhouse to events such as basketball games and athletic events as a mascot, and he did his job up until his death in 2013.
“When he died, the big hole left in the community in his absence was recognized quickly,” Bell said. “The university worked internally to set things up for an official live mascot program to be established. Once they were ready, I was approached and asked to start the program, working as an employee for Drake. I agreed, and in October of 2015, the first official live mascot, Griff I, was introduced.”
Drake University has seen two official live mascots, Griff I and the current mascot, Griff II. Griff I retired in 2019 after four years of representing the University and is currently enjoying his life as a couch potato.
“It was a time of a lot of different emotions; very bittersweet,” Bell said of the transition from Griff I to Griff II. “I have great pride in Griff I and all he did for the University and the way he represented it in everything he did during his time as the mascot. But I also knew it was the right time for him to retire so that he could enjoy life as a couch potato at home. I had no regrets in the decision and the timing of it all. As soon as Griff II started in the role, I was 100 percent confident with the way everything was decided and handled. He has made me incredibly proud, and I know with every fiber of my being that he is meant to be doing this.”
Drake students are known for their love of both Griff I and Griff II, often relaying memories with their favorite live mascot.
Kay Awonaike, a sophomore majoring in digital media production and public relations, says it is nice to be able to recognize Griff whenever he walks around campus.
“I got a chance to pet him at the start of last semester and he licked my hand,” Awonaike said. “It was a really cute moment and made my day. Griff gives me a sense of pride as a Drake University student, being able to have a life mascot.”
Sarah Greiver, a freshman majoring in public relations with minors in graphic design and writing, first got to meet Griff at the beginning of the school year.
“Every FYS class went and got a picture with Griff,” Greiver said. “I asked if I could get a solo picture with him, and I ended up on his Instagram. It is just really cool to have a live mascot; it sets us apart [from] the crowd, and plus, he’s so cute.”
Whether it’s attending sporting events, charity events or taking a stroll around campus, Griff II brings a smile to the face of most everyone he meets.