The Hokiebird

The origin of the term "Gobblers" is disputed, with one story claiming it was coined in the early 1900s as a description of how student athletes would "gobble" up their more than ample servings of food. Another story attributes it to the fact that the 1909 football coach, Branch Bocock, wanted to stimulate better spirit amongst his players and initiated them into an impromptu and informal "Gobbler Club." Thus, the name was already popular when Fred Meade, a local resident chosen by the student body to serve as the school's mascot, had a large turkey pull him in a cart at a football game in 1913. The school's president halted the cart pulling after one game because he thought it was cruel to the turkey. Meade continued to parade his mascot, which he had trained to gobble on command, up and down the sidelines--and did so until another "turkey trainer" took over in 1924 to continue the tradition. Enthusiastic fans and sports writers adopted the "Gobbler" nickname and began to use it regularly. In 1936, a costumed Gobbler joined the live gobbler for at least one game. The use of a live gobbler mascot continued into the 1950s, and the first permanent costumed Gobbler took the field in the fall of 1962. But the "Gobbler" was not to last, at least in name. In the late 1970s, the university hired a football coach who heard the theory that the Gobbler mascot was based on athletes gobbling their food down. The coach didn't like the image, so he began promoting the "Hokie" nickname and even removed the gobble from the scoreboard--current football coach Frank Beamer had it reinstalled. In 1982, the appearance of the Gobbler mascot costume was changed to one that looked like a maroon cardinal with a snood, and references first appeared to it as "the Hokie mascot," "the Hokie," and "the Hokie bird." The costume worn by today's HokieBird made its first appearance in 1987. HokieBird has won national mascot competitions and has been so popular that the mascot landed an appearance on Animal Planet's "Turkey Secrets," shown annually around Thanksgiving.