Selection Process Generates Largest Response in Recent Years
Fourth-year student Oscar DeLeon remembers quite well his first day on campus. His mother had driven him to San Diego from their home in Ivanhoe near Fresno. Outside the Cuicacalli Suites residence hall, they spied the Aztec Warrior.
Fourth-year aerospace engineering major, Oscar DeLeon, answers questions during his interview with the traditions committee.
“She told me, ‘You’re going to be that guy,’” DeLeon remembers. Turns out, his mother’s words were prophetic.
The 21-year-old aerospace engineering major is one of two students selected to share the role of SDSU’s Aztec Warrior. DeLeon and senior film production major, Dexter Gareau, will train over the next few months before beginning to split their mascot duties later this summer. The two will replace Mike Lopez (’09) who has filled the role for the past three years.
Both won the position after a two-stage audition process that began last month. More than 20 potential applicants expressed interest in becoming the Aztec Warrior and eight auditioned for the role. The turnout of applicants was the largest for a mascot audition in recent history.
Alumni Association Past President Lois Bruhn ('63,'69) serves on the traditions committee that selects the Aztec Warrior.
“I was very pleased with the number of candidates we had and I think they all put some time into preparing for the event,” says Lois Bruhn (’63, ’69) a past president of the SDSU Alumni Association and a member of the organization’s traditions committee. “It was really good as a committee to be able to see and talk with a number of students who were interested.”
A GOOD PROCESS
The selection committee, composed of 10 SDSU students, alumni and staff, first conducted interviews with the candidates at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center
, then reconvened outdoors after the interview session for a demonstration of each candidate’s spirit skills, including a rendition of the “Fight Song.”
Senior film production major, Dexter Gareau, answers questions during his interview with the traditions committee.
“I thought it was a good process,” says the 24-year-old Gareau. “I thought it was an effective way of seeing who we were without putting an overt amount of pressure to give fixed answers and say what the committee wanted us to say, so I was able to be myself in there.”
And the spirit skills performance?
“It was kind of scary. You don’t have all the fans and you don’t have a lot of people to feed off of, but you had enough and people were really supportive out there and really gave me a chance to shine.”
DeLeon describes his performance as “spontaneous.”
“I had no idea what I was going to do,” he admits. “I just went in there feeling like an Aztec and gave it my best shot. I just gave a little war cry and it felt good. In the interview I just tried to be myself. I expressed myself and I tried to be the person I am.”
(l-r) Students and traditions committee members Sean Kaschanchi and Jamie Linn Davis watch a spirit skills audition by an Aztec Warrior candidate.
Committee member Jamie Linn Davis, in her third year with the SDSU cheer squad, says she had specific criteria she was looking for.
“First of all, the whole physique thing is definitely the first thing you look at making sure they can fill that warrior look with the muscles and everything like that,” the junior communications major explains. “But then also a stern look, not someone that’s bubbly. You can’t have an Aztec Warrior with a bubbly personality. You definitely need someone with a very stern personality, yet who can get along with the crowd.”
Both Gareau and DeLeon came in at the top of her list.
REPRESENTING MORE THAN SDSU
Gareau, who coaches high school soccer and says he works out a minimum of a couple of times a week, says he is “excited” to be chosen as the public face of San Diego State. But, he says, as the Aztec Warrior, he will be representing more than the university.
Dexter Gareau demonstrates his spirit skills under the scrutiny of current Aztec Warrior, Mike Lopez ('09).
"I'm actually a quarter Mayan,” Gareau says. “My mom is from Guatemala, born and raised, and I think this will be a great opportunity not only to show my Aztec pride, but my Latino pride as well."
Gareau says he is mindful of the responsibilities that come with the role of Aztec Warrior, but he is looking forward to getting down to the mascot business.
"I think the best thing is going to be that first moment when I run out on the field over at Qualcomm or that first moment when I run out on the court at Viejas,” he speculates. “I think that's going to be the most exciting thing possible."
CARRYING ON THE TRADITION
DeLeon says he, too, can’t wait to get started. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says. “I'm excited to carry on the energy, the tradition."
Oscar DeLeon demonstrates his spirit skills during auditions for the new Aztec Warrior.
Born in Mexico, DeLeon says he recently visited his grandparents in his family’s hometown. They told him stories of the Aztec ancestors from whom he is descended and shared tales of their region once ruled, centuries ago, by the mighty Aztec culture.
"I'm eager to talk to them and see what their reactions are to my being the Aztec Warrior,” DeLeon says. “I'm sure they will be very proud and happy that I'm representing the same tradition and culture they come from."
DeLeon says between the auditions and the demands of his studies, he really had not had time to process his selection as the next Aztec Warrior until he attended the February 26 Aztec men’s basketball game against BYU.
“When you walked in you felt the energy and it was very intense,” he says. “Coming in and seeing the full sold-out arena with everyone chanting 'I believe,' it all came to me then. That’s when it hit me for the first time that I was going to be the next Aztec Warrior. That’s when I really got excited.”
DeLeon says his mother was excited, too, when he called to deliver the news.
"I told her, 'Remember the time you dropped me off that first day at San Diego State over at ‘Cuic’ and we saw the Aztec Warrior and your first words were, 'You're going to be that guy?' Well, it really happened.’
“She was so happy and proud. Now she can't wait to come down and see her Aztec Warrior."