Unmasking the Leopard

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Rick Fisher (right), who was the Leopard mascot for 15 years, poses with the current mascot, Dysean Alexander. (Photo courtesy of Dysean Alexander)

After the October 2021 retirement of Rick Fisher, the man behind the Leopard mascot for the past 15 years, the identity of the new Leopard has remained largely a secret — until now.

Some assume the Leopard portrayer is a student, often yelling random names at the mascot to try and guess the identity. However, the current Leopard is none other than Dysean Alexander, assistant director of admissions.

Alexander was thrust into the role when the admissions office asked the athletic department to send the Leopard for an event. They then learned that no one had taken on the role after Fisher.

Someone needed to step up.

“Me being probably the most animated person in our office, everybody automatically looked at me,” Alexander said.

With the Lafayette-Lehigh Rivalry Game looming just one week later, Alexander made a deal.

“I basically came back and said I would do it for the admissions event if I could be the mascot at the Lafayette-Lehigh Rivalry Game. Since this was going to be my first time experiencing the Rivalry Game on campus, I figured I had to get the best seat in the house.”

After the success of his first game, Alexander agreed to continue his role for the basketball season, and the rest is history.

Aside from his role in admissions, Alexander also works as a comedian.

“[In] admissions … being able to connect with families is a big part of what we do,” he said. “And in stand-up comedy, what I do is try to entertain people and try to bring people enjoyment, laughter [and] excitement. So, a mascot is basically the perfect combination of that, and I don’t even got to say nothing.”

The Leopard has no skits or dances attached to its performance as a mascot, meaning that Alexander gets to decide how to play the role.

“As much as the mascot has been present, it’s still kind of a position that is really undefined. So that’s just given me and I think Rick, too, that freedom when we’re in the suit to really just do what you want,” he said. “You know, there’s very few things in life and in a college setting where you can just kind of do what you want and the end goal is to make people happy or just make people enjoy themselves.”

Alexander’s rendition of the role comes as the college nears the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Leopard mascot, which was originally chosen to represent the football team specifically.

Up until 1924, Lafayette was simply referred to as “the Maroons” in relation to the school colors, maroon and white.

The mascot change was first reported in The Lafayette on Oct. 22, 1924 in which an article declares, “Leopard to be college mascot.”

The article explains that the decision was made at “the regular meeting of the Student Council held in Brainerd Hall. A Leopard skin has been ordered and will be worn by a student at the Penn and W. & J. games, and was met with approval.”

There was no explanation given at the time for why they chose the Leopard, but according to Lafayette Athletics, part of the reason was to give the school an animal mascot that matched its competitors.

There have been many iterations of the Leopard, but Lafayette Athletics wrote that the latest design was created by Phoenix Design and Jay Williams ’80.

According to Lafayette Athletics, “Lafayette developed a visual identity program for athletics that was introduced throughout the 2004-05 seasons. The identity includes a full-body leopard and typography treatment as well as secondary elements such as a paw print and leopard head.”

While the college mascot has been defined for 99 years, the Leopard has no name.

“I think everybody calls the leopard Leo, but that’s technically not the official name for the leopard,” Alexander said. “I think from what I’ve heard from the conversations, they’re gonna declare the official name next year.”