A mascot and more

Cowboy Carl defines school spirit through dedication

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Angelina Liu

Cowboy Carl hypes up Coppell High School students at the pep rally at Buddy Echols Field on Sept. 13. Cowboy Carl is a staple mascot at CHS events. Photo by Angelina Liu

Saniya Koppikar, Staff Writer

Up in the bleachers at a football game, high enough for the wind to bite and the announcer’s voice to echo in the air, Coppell High School esteemed mascot Cowboy Carl’s head stands out against all others.

The mascot’s outfit is a classic cowboy look––jeans, chaps and a wide-brim hat––but the head, an amalgamation of newspaper, paint and plaster, is especially eye-catching. It’s gone through several looks, but each one has left an impression on Carl’s eager audience. 

Coppell varsity cheerleading coach Alexis Irons says it is time for another makeover. 

“[The head’s] starting to scratch and fall apart a bit,” Irons said. 

The plan comes on the heels of another major change: a new student under the head.

Cowboy Carl is a staple at Coppell events, but most everything about them remains a mystery. Unless the person under the head is a senior––Carl may not reveal their identity for multiple years. 

Carl is constantly at the forefront of Coppell. He represents everything CHS strives to stand for: leadership, integrity, kindness and dedication. So when former Cowboy Carl, senior Kelly Wheeler, graduated in May the search for someone to fill those time-honored red chaps renewed with a recruitment post on Twitter, hopeful applicants jumped at the opportunity to carry on Wheeler’s legacy. 

Those applying completed a leadership folder to demonstrate leadership skills, performance quality and, most importantly, proficiency at nonverbal expressiveness. Because Cowboy Carl doesn’t speak, the applicants have to understand how to use body language to express emotion.

But it’s not all cut and dry. The person stepping into the role doesn’t necessarily have to play a character identical to those who have worn Cowboy Carl’s costume before. 

“[The mascots] always have different personalities, and that’s what makes this role so special,” Irons explains. “It really is a reflection of the different types of students we have[at CHS]. Carl is not just one personality; Carl is all of us.”

“It really is a reflection of the different types of students we have[at CHS]. Carl is not just one personality; Carl is all of us.”

— Alexis Irons

One trait that has remained constant throughout the various students donning the costume, however, is Carl’s presence. Though a smile might be permanently drawn on under his mustache, Carl’s tradition of friendliness is predominantly honored through the mascot’s actions. 

That’s what Irons thinks makes Carl so symbolic to Coppell. In community and school alike, the mascot demonstrates not just a tradition of excellence and athleticism, but approachability and a signature Coppell value: togetherness. 

And it is exactly that––togetherness––which allows Carl’s audience to be so diverse. 

While Cowboy Carl is the high school’s mascot, his audience isn’t limited to teenagers. Spectators at athletic and pep events can range from toddlers to elderly, and age doesn’t matter when it comes to appreciating Carl’s demeanor. 

“I love to see that the young [ones] really love Carl,” CHS Principal Laura Springer says. “We had our cheerleading camp, and when [parents] were taking pictures––some people couldn’t even get their kids to look at the camera because they were too busy looking at Carl.” 

On the flipside is the mascot’s appeal to older kids. Though Carl might not evoke the same sense of whimsy in teenagers as in toddlers, his impact isn’t insignificant. 

“It gives somebody another chance to get involved in the school,” said CHS chemistry teacher Chris Stricker, who leads pep rallies at CHS. “It’s important to have that school spirit, that person to look out to.”

With the recognition and fun, however, comes a considerable time commitment. Not only did applications begin during summer break, but Cowboy Carl’s appearances frequently fall outside of school hours. Irons describes the current Carl as dedicated, even as they are involved with numerous other time-consuming activities. 

‘It’s been important to this Cowboy Carl that those appearances become more and more frequent, and you’ll see [them] more and more frequently at things like basketball games and volleyball games,” Irons said. “I really am appreciative of that commitment and that consistency, and I hope it will carry on throughout the future of the mascot.”

Because the number of eyes constantly on Carl is set to increase, the mascot’s anonymity will hinge on the efforts of all involved with him. The cheerleading team––the only constant witnesses to an unmasked Carl––keeps his identity under wraps, and the current Cowboy Carl is committed to honoring the mystery of the role. 

Eventually, though, as most secrets entrusted to an army of 4,000 high schoolers tend to not remain secret, the cat gets out of the bag. Irons doesn’t think that’s truly detrimental.

“They do want to know who Carl is,” Irons said. “But what’s even more special is having that name. Once that outfit is on and that head is on, it doesn’t matter if [anyone] knows who is underneath. They become Carl. Once Carl is there, it’s just Carl who’s there.”

Follow Saniya Koppikar (@SaniyaKoppikar) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.