- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS — Pat Mazur got ready for George Mason’s Final Four showdown with Florida yesterday like most people. He rolled out of bed, showered and got dressed.

Then he put on the fuzzy green head.

Aside from the school’s basketball players, perhaps nobody has been thrust into the spotlight more than the ambiguous school mascot known as Gunston, which even Mazur cannot quite explain.

“He’s not a bear, he’s not a dog, he’s not anything,” said Mazur, a 22-year-old senior from Chesapeake, Va., who has played the role for three years. “He’s a character.”

The 8-foot-tall, fuzzy green and yellow-nosed mascot came into existence in its current form in 1986.

His only obvious connection to the team’s nickname — Patriots — is his Colonial-era hat, though he gets his name from the Gunston Hall estate of George Mason, about 12 miles from the Fairfax campus.

Since the Patriots’ improbable tournament run began last month, Mazur has tagged along for the wild ride.

He has appeared in numerous TV spots, including CBS’s the Early Show, and has made many other appearances at pep rallies and promotional events to pump up Patriot spirit.

“Doing interviews and doing appearances has just been amazing,” said Mazur while donning the fabric-foam-and-fur costume in his room at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

“Just riding the coattails of our players has given me an opportunity I never thought I’d have,” he said.

Among the opportunities was being on the floor of the RCA Dome as the Patriots took on the Florida Gators.

Before that, Mazur had a chance to mingle with mascots from the three other teams in the finals.

“I’ve actually had a good time with all the mascots,” he said. “Obviously, we all root for our teams, [but] come game-time relations between Albi the Alligator and I probably won’t be the same.”

Mazur, who flew on a chartered plane with the Mason cheerleaders and arrived in Indianapolis on Thursday, said the city’s response to the team and the mascot has been overwhelming.

“When we went to the open practice [Friday], we got swarmed,” he said. “Everybody sees us and they’re like, ‘We’re so happy you’re here, this is the best thing in college basketball in 10 years.’”

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