The Lafayette Leopard retires after 15 years

Rick+Fisher+was+the+Lafayette+Leopard+from+2006-2021.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Athletic+Communications%29

Rick Fisher was the Lafayette Leopard from 2006-2021. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

Craig Barbaro

Rick Fisher, the Lafayette Leopard mascot of 15 years, announced his retirement while the Lafayette football team faced the University of New Hampshire on Sept. 18. Rick Fisher, 71, has been the mascot since 2006 but is now hanging up the costume.

Fisher became the mascot after an uninspiring meet-and-greet with the Lafayette Leopard at a block party in 2006.

“[My kids] were all excited to see the Leopard, but he really did not acknowledge them and was not overly energetic,” Fisher said. “At the time I was working at Lafayette as a custodian and a rodeo clown, the latter of which ended due to weather. Next thing I knew, I spoke to someone about becoming the Leopard, as I was under the impression you had to be a student but you did not, and I became the Leopard.”

In that moment, Fisher began his career as the Lafayette Leopard. He took a short break due to a foot injury in 2014 and briefly considered retirement. However, after six months of rest and a phone call from Lafayette asking if he could return, Fisher was back in action.

“I do forty plus events a year as a Leopard, including all the home women and men’s basketball games and all the football games,” Fisher said. “I was able to travel to many places I never thought I would be able to and experience parts of the country I would not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.”

While there is much excitement surrounding the job, some of the work can be grueling.

“September football games when it is hot is the hardest part of being the Leopard,” Fisher explained. “Each time we score a touchdown I would do pushups to reflect the score which got harder and harder, especially after [COVID-19].”

Part of what inspired Fisher to continue as the Leopard for an extended period of time is the people and the Lafayette community.

“I will miss the people and being with the teams,” Fisher said. “It’s a neat experience, seeing how people react to the Leopard. The travel is also cool. The community is great at Lafayette. Overall, from the president down, I was treated well and I feel like I represented Lafayette College and I love it.”

The Lafayette community will certainly feel the impact of Fisher’s departure, as Fisher worked closely with the cheerleaders and dance team throughout his time as Lafayette.

“Rick is a great guy,” senior cheerleading co-captain Kara-Lyn Moran wrote in an email. “He always brings an amazing energy to the game and everyone he meets. He has been willing to be an amazing mascot for the Lafayette Leopards and is always excited to meet and show Leopard pride to anybody he meets, from a young child to a seasoned fan.”

“The cheerleading team worked very closely with Fisher, and it was nothing short of a pleasure for all of us,” senior cheerleader Issy Bongiovanni said. “Rick was our cheerleader in a way because he was such a positive support for us and always brought so much incredible energy to our team. Not only would he always be with us at games, but we would often also participate in events alongside him for both Lafayette and Easton.”

“Around Halloween my sophomore year the team walked in a parade around Easton for hours cheering and handing out candy, I remember Rick keeping up his energy and helping us maintain ours the entire time, not tiring once,” she added.

Aside from being the Leopard, Fisher had a positive impact on those he worked with.

“He was a steadfast and positive presence over all the years and the girls he worked with, while in the mascot suit and just being himself,” Moran said. “He remembered all of our names and made sure to make us feel just as important as the football players. As someone who lives very far away from home and my own family members, he felt like my grandfather cheering me on during every game. It has meant a lot to me to have him at all the games during my four years and as every new season started knowing Rick was always going to be there cheering all of us on.”

Looking back at his 15 years as the Leopard, some memories stick out to Fisher more than others.

“My fondest memory is at Yankee Stadium at the one hundred and fiftieth rivalry game,” Fisher said. “That and the way people react to meeting the Leopard were both surreal. Flying to North Dakota State was a cool experience as well, and anytime we beat Lehigh was great.”

Prior to his departure, Fisher was honored with a ceremony in which Lafayette’s Athletic Director Sherryta Freeman honored him in front of his family and a stadium full of people.

“I did not even realize the ceremony was planned,” Fisher said. “I was told someone would be honored who gave money to the college and I was waiting for someone to come out after the cheerleaders took the field. Once I heard I was being honored I was shocked and I saw my family there which I did not expect. I really had no idea it was going to happen and it was a great surprise.”