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Meeting Mikel Hager

Rolling out the 69th Mountaineer Mascot

Photo Essay

Fans will recognize Hager as the cheerleader who catches the giant roll by foot, popping it into his arms and toting it out of the way when the carpet runs out of room to run.

“It was absolutely amazing. I was definitely emotional about the National Anthem and my final cheer off,” Roush said. 

“There were a lot of full-circle moments,” she continued. “I got to think of the girl one year ago who was just happy to have the opportunity to stand on that court and be a finalist — let alone have her dream come true … just such a full-circle moment to think about where I was, where I am today, how much the Mountaineer has changed my life and helped me grow into the amazing Mountaineer I am today.”

mary smiles at the crowd
I was definitely emotional about the National Anthem.

— Mary Roush

“Mikel has been the person who has stood directly next to the Mountaineer for the last four years,” Roush said. “I feel like with that position, he knows the Mountaineer more than anybody — honestly.” 

“When I went into it, I was really scared and on my toes … but Mikel was the first person to give me tips and tell me where to stand and show me the ropes of being the Mountaineer,” Roush said. 

“It’s really cool that the roles are reversed now and I get to show him all of the parts of the job that he didn’t realize,” she continued.

 Mikel Hager talks backstage with friends

It was time for the announcement, and candidates Braden Adkins (who will serve as Hager’s alternate), Christian Adkins, and Hager, left-to-right respectively in the photo above, waited for their time to take the court. And when Hager’s name rang through the Coliseum, the loudest and fastest roar exploded from the cheerleaders stationed in front of the student section.

...something about just getting to hold the rifle and be out there by yourself — it hits a little different, for sure.

— Mikel Hager

“I saw his persona change (from ‘cheerleader Mikel’) when he won, when I gave him a hug, when he grabbed the rifle,” Roush said.

“You could tell he was genuinely just like shocked and so excited — and also nervous,” she continued. “Holding that gun and doing the cheer for the first time is so nerve-racking. I give it a 10 out of 10 — he’s been doing the cheer for a really long time and I think he’s been waiting a really long time to finally do it with the rifle in his hand, so I think he did a great job.” 

From the court and excitement to the bowels of the Coliseum to give a first television interview as the next West Virginia University mascot, Hager went. To which he concluded by acknowledging he wanted to watch the rest of the game — a few last minutes at home before putting the buckskins on to start a new season.

Mikel Hager being interviewed after becoming the Mountaineer mascot

And, for Roush, it was a chance to bring the family onto the court for a final time and have a few pictures taken to remember her basketball season as the 68th Mountaineer mascot in her beloved home state and University.

Mary Roush and her family on the court

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