Artisans: Alec Da Silveira, mascot
The art of getting people into school spirit
Alec Da Silveira, mascot for Florida Gulf Coast University
Alec Da Silveira
Years in costume: Four
Years in Southwest Florida: 17
It’s hot. It’s dark. It kind of smells like old cheese. But Alec Da Silveira doesn’t mind. In fact, there are few places the recent Seacrest Country Day School graduate would rather stick his face than into the mask of FGCU Azul the Eagle costume. For the past four years, Da Silveira has been the school’s dirty bird in chief, shaking his tail feathers and rallying fans at everything from track meets to baseball games.
Since the 2013 men’s basketball team made its run to the Sweet 16, crowds at games have been bigger than ever. And those crowds are easy to rile up. But for his first two years in the suit, Da Silveira had to figure out how to get a sometimes sparsely filled arena on its feet and cheering. So how do you start the wave with more empty seats than filled ones? It’s definitely an art—and one that not just any birdbrain can master.
“My freshman year of high school, the former eagle, Tyler, had graduated and moved to Chicago. My mom [the marketing director for the FGCU athletics program] was having issues finding someone with Tyler’s stage presence to be in the suit. She asked me if I’d put it on and try it out for a game or two. Neither of us had any idea how much I’d love it.”
“I remember games where I’d show up and there’d be just no one in the crowd. Or just a few older people. When you’ve got a small crowd, the trick is to find the few people who are willing to be enthusiastic. At any college game, you’re going to have between three and 10 people who are willing to really get into it. I spend the first few minutes of the game figuring out who those people might be—they might not be in the first row, but they’re always there. When it comes time to start a chant or do the wave, they’re who I go to first.”
Endangered Species Act
“You can’t really see a lot out of the suit, and that’s probably for the best. There have been times when I’m like,
‘I know I’m getting a weird look right now.’ In order to be good at this you need to not really care what other people think. I mean, you’re not going to be doing anything irresponsible or stupid, because you’re always representing the school. But you do take liberties that you think your character, Azul, would do.”
No, Seriously, Can You Teach Me How to Dougie?
“Azul has built his reputation on being a good dancer; that’s kind of his thing. Early on, people would ask me, ‘Do you know how to do the jerk?’ And if I didn’t, I’d go home and look it up online and practice it until I was really good at it, or at least better than the average person. My signature move is the Dougie. I’ve gotten really good at it.”
“Once, Tyler made a full-court shot in the suit. As a person who’s tried it, that’s like a message from God. At ‘Best of the Nest’ [an on campus pep-rally], I tried to make a half-court shot in front of everyone and airballed pretty badly.”
Scarred and Feathered
“Once, I was walking backward on the court and there were things down on the court for a half-time promotion and I just tripped and completely ate it. I rolled out of it and went into a ninja-stance—you just have to always stay in character.”
Doing the (Heat) Wave
“Wearing the suit is like wearing a fur coat with leggings and a helmet. It gets pretty hot. I know some suits have like self-contained air-conditioning or fans in them, but not this one. It’s fine during indoor events, but my mom and I have had a few arguments over doing outdoor events.”
Leaving the Nest
“I’m going to DePauw University in Indiana next year. That was not an easy decision. But I’m going to be the mascot there, too. So I’ll be Tyler the Tiger. I don’t feel like I’m a Tiger yet, though; I think FGCU will always feel like home to me.”