From the Horse’s Mouth

An exclusive profile of Bucky the Bronco, while preserving their anonymity of course.

Who wears the sleek brown coat is confidential. But the secrets behind what it takes to be Bucky the Bronco are being leaked. And Santa Clara Magazine has the exclusive.

Beneath the six-foot horse costume is an SCU Athletics student intern who, according to assistant director of marketing and fan engagement Adam Brunnquell, dedicates five hours a week to learning sideline routines and energizing campus crowds.

When hiring mascot interns, Brunnquell says he looks for “students with experience in performing, a positive attitude, great work ethic, and someone who has an overall great energy to be around.”

Typically, four students take turns performing as Bucky each academic year. Despite being powered by super Bronco fans, Bucky has a life of their own. To preserve their required anonymity, SCM has agreed to refer to the mascot-wearers as Bucky #1, Bucky #2, Bucky #3, and Bucky #4.

“My favorite part of baseball games as a kid was the mascot. I loved how they put a smile on my face by simply waving at me. I wanted to be that source of joy for others, and Santa Clara seemed like the perfect place to do it,” says Bucky #1.

Bucky #2 also felt destined to join the Santa Clara mascot family. “Fun fact, when I got accepted into Santa Clara, the first thing I said to my mom was, ‘I’m going to be Bucky the Bronco,’” says Bucky #2. “Then, weirdly enough, I got an advertisement email from SCU Athletics saying they were looking to fill the position. I guess you could say Bucky was my calling.”

Becoming Bucky the Bronco requires a student worker job application, a one-on-one interview with athletic department staff, and an in-person audition at Leavey Center. Those who are selected receive $16.40 an hour, as well as Nike-sponsored athletic equipment like free workout shoes and clothes.

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Bucky the Bronco waves the Santa Clara flag high and proud at a women’s basketball game.

“At the interview, I was asked if I had any previous experience with being a mascot or performing. So obviously, I said that I took break dancing lessons in fourth grade. Along with the fact that I have some theater experience,” says Bucky #3. “Then, I had to do an audition in Leavey Center where I demonstrated how I would energize a crowd without speaking since Bucky’s nonverbal.”

So Bucky #3 ran up and down the stadium’s then-empty bleachers, waving their hands in the air to simulate the energy they would bring to sporting events. “My favorite courtside move I demonstrated was my jumping jacks, which I call ‘Bronco jacks,’ to show how I didn’t need to talk to get the fans hyped.”

When one steps into Bucky’s hooves, there are three mandatory rules: Do not get caught speaking, do not appear in partial costume, and never disclose your identity.

Many fans, especially children, try to get Bucky to respond regardless of the rules. Bucky #4 remembers one kid trying their best to elicit a slip-up. “The other day at a soccer game a kid asked me if Bucky liked ketchup or mustard on their hotdog, so I gestured that I like the second option and the kid was very disappointed to find out Bucky likes mustard!”

Despite the rules, the Bucky interns say a huge sense of freedom comes with stepping into the mascot suit. “I love the fact that because no one knows who I am, I can be as eccentric and animated as I want. I love seeing how excited people get when I run out,” says Bucky #2.

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Bucky the Bronco dances in a special halftime Christmas routine with the Santa Clara Dance Team.

As for the costume itself, SCU Athletics has two bronco heads and two suits for the interns to share. While performing in the costume can get hot, the Buckys revealed that it is quite comfortable and does not smell inside, which may surprise many.

Bucky #4 says, “It may shock people, but no, the costume does not smell. Well, at least not yet. No, but seriously, SCU Athletics does a great job of keeping it clean. The costume gets hung in a well-ventilated room with fans around and inside. I don’t know if I would be able to survive four to five-hour events if it stunk.”

One challenge they’ll cop to is that Bucky’s head has little to no peripheral vision. “I want the SCU community to know that if I don’t wave back at you, it’s not because I don’t like you, it’s because I physically didn’t see you,” Bucky #3 says. “I am only able to see through a square box out of the head’s mouth and I cannot express how many times I have almost run into fans and their dogs at my first few events.”

Whether it’s by doing Bronco jacks on the court or making Bronco fans of all ages (and species) smile, Santa Clara sporting events would be incomplete without Bucky.

(We’re still a bit skeptical about the costume’s smell, though.)

Bucky the Bronco performs “Lil Bit” routine with Santa Clara University Dance Team during the men’s basketball game against University of San Diego.
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