AQUILLA, Texas (KWTX) Aquilla High School mascot Mikey McKibben, better known to Aquilla fans as MAC, short for Mikey the Aquilla Cougar, is one of four finalists for the best mascot in the entire country sponsored by Varsity Brands, a company that’s a global leader in everything from cheerleader uniforms to sports equipment.
Aquilla High School mascot Mikey McKibbon. (Family photo)
“Around Christmas, one of Mikey’s friends decided to nominate him to try out for the Varsity most spirited mascot,” his mother, Susan McKibbon, said.
“So we put a video together which is on YouTube and he wrote an essay and sent it off to Varsity in January.”
Family members say they were shocked and thrilled when they found out that the freshman made the cut, particularly because he embarked on a path they never expected him to take after he was diagnosed as a toddler with a motor speech disorder that which makes it difficult to speak.
“Mikey, at the age of 2, was diagnosed with Apraxia which is like delayed speech so with that being said I was really surprised when he came last year and told me he wanted to try out for mascot. And I thought if you really want to do this, I’ll support you.”
Mikey wrote about his health journey which includes 12-years of intense therapy in the essay he submitted to Varsity as part of his entry package.
“Being my school’s mascot is very significant to me because it allows me to be myself without judgment,” the 15-year old wrote.
“I do not have to cheer or yell like the cheerleaders because of my costume. So, I have the opportunity to excite and motivate the fans to cheer for our team in a different way and encourage others to support our school, athletes and community.”
Mikey won the job by beating the three other competitors at Aquilla High School, which has an enrollment of about 300.
His only experience was watching his four sisters compete in cheer.
“Ever since he was teeny-tiny he’s been dragged to competitions all over,” his mother said, laughing.
Mikey immediately found his niche behind the giant cougar mask and was named a Universal Cheerleaders Association All-American Mascot at cheer camp in his first year.
Susan says despite his difficulty at times communicating, he has no trouble expressing himself when he puts on the cougar costume.
He’s been a favorite ringing the bell for Salvation Army, lighting of the Hill County Christmas tree.
He’s even known for greeting parents and students at student drop off line at school.
“I think that’s one way to show care and compassion to others without using speech because with having a mascot you don’t have to talk, but you can still encourage people,” Susan said.
“Everyone says that. It’s like his alter ego because he’s really quiet and reserved but he gets out there and he wears all these costumes. He totally gets into it.”
Voting isn’t open to the public.
The company will announce the winner at an event May 11th in Orlando, Fla.
First place gets a 3-thousand dollar scholarship which Susan says her son would apply toward continuing his dream as a professional mascot.
“I know he’ll stay in Texas,” she said.
“He would love to be the Dallas Cowboys mascot one day”