‘The man behind the horse’: Latest Elwood talks about tradition

Published 5:45 am Tuesday, May 30, 2023

FARMVILLE – Students attending Longwood will find the university has many traditions. One of those involves selecting a new mascot, Elwood, and eventually revealing who that person is during commencement ceremonies. The most recent performer, Tyler Cosley, tells about what it was like to wear the suit and more about the tradition. 

Becoming Elwood

Cosley tried out for Elwood after seeing the mascot in the Greatest Athletic March Ever. Since his mother was also a mascot in high school, this opportunity intrigued Cosley and he went to auditions and eventually got the part. 

“I liked the idea of bringing joy in a role that’s not myself,” said Cosley. “It’s special having people interact with you and not know it’s you.”

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The point isn’t to think of Elwood as a person in the suit but as the spirit of the university.  To better understand the role, Cosley watched videos of Disney characters interacting with guests visiting the parks as the focus is on the character creating the special movement and not the actor. 

According to Cosley, one of his favorite memories of being Elwood is traveling with the men’s basketball team for the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament in 2022.

“I got to go with the team and hang out with the cheerleaders who are such a sweet group,” said Cosley. “I got to meet people and really feel like I was a part of Longwood history.”

During the game, Elwood got into a dance battle with one of the other mascots. After the game, Cosley’s family called to tell him they saw him as Elwood on television. 

Other sweet memories from his time as Elwood was interacting with different people. Cosley recounted interacting with the young students who came for the Virginia Book Festival and going to other sporting events. 

The big reveal

When the Elwood secret is revealed, it’s not a big announcement but more of a slow burn. At the 2023 commencement, Cosley continued the tradition of wearing Elwood’s feet during the ceremony. 

While lining up for commencement and participating in the ceremony, people would see his feet and realize it had been him all along hyping them up for games and posing in their selfies. 

“The most fulfilling reactions were from the people I don’t know,” he said. “It’s funny the reactions you get because some are thrilled to find out who it is and others humble you because they have no idea what it means.”

As tradition, when he walked across the stage to receive his handshake and diploma, Cosley kicked his foot up to show the crowd what he was wearing. Some are left confused but many alumni, students and graduates know exactly what he was telling them. 

Passing the torch 

Now that he’s graduated, Cosley’s time as Elwood has come to a close. Now, the role is passed to a new Elwood to keep traditions alive and bring fun to events. 

“My advice to the new Elwood is to respect the tradition of the Elwoods that came before but be confident and make it your own,” he said. “Some things can’t be changed, like there is a certain way Elwoood walks, but what you bring to it makes it unique.”