Meet Knightro: Life as UCF's Mascot

Meet Knightro: Life as UCF’s Mascot

Albert Zolin was honored during halftime of UCF's Senior Day basketball game. With him are Spirit Program Director & Cheerleading Head Coach Linda Gooch; Miles Zolin, Albert's dad; and Team Knightro Coach Michael Callahan.

Albert Zolin is one of four students suiting up as UCF’s mascot this year. A senior Digital Media major, he will graduate this spring alongside his dad, Miles.

Albert Zolin was born in Arizona and graduated from Seminole High School in Lake Mary. He helps with residence hall security patrols at night as a member of UCF’s Residence Hall and Apartment Patrol program. He also is a Student Conduct Review Board member. He hopes to earn a master’s degree in business at the University of Colorado or King’s College of London.

Since Knightro doesn’t talk, we asked Zolin to give us the inside scoop on everything from his most memorable moment to the most unusual request he’s had from a fan.

Tryouts are coming up this weekend (see the bottom of the Q&A for details). What does it take for a student to be a top-notch mascot?

Commitment and a sparkling personality. Knightro is everywhere.  He visits schools, hospitals, 5K charity runs, philanthropic events and even weddings. Not to mention UCF football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and volleyball matches. You have to be pretty outgoing, because mascots do everything over the top. A good mascot doesn’t worry about looking stupid in front of a stadium full of people. You have to go out there, keep the energy level high and not hold anything back.

How do you learn to be a good mascot?

Every summer, the spirit team (Cheer, Dance and Knightro) attends a camp at the University of Alabama. At the mascot camp, you are coached by professionals and given time to practice interacting with other mascots. We also have a weekend over the summer when we start preparing for football season by practicing all of the mannerisms that make Knightro, well Knightro. In the end, experience is the greatest teacher.

What kind of training/workout routine do you follow?

Cardio is key since Knightro is always high-energy wherever he is — especially at football games. It’s hot and Knightro sprints up, down, back, forth, and all around that field. I like to dance as well. It comes in handy since most events usually have some type of music playing.

What’s worse for Knightro? A 95-degree Saturday afternoon or torrential rain?

That’s a tough one. The costume soaks up water like a giant sponge. Torrential rain, like what happened at the Marshall game in 2011, can make the costume pretty heavy. However, a 95-degree Saturday is far worse. It gets hot in that costume; on a 95-degree day it is easily 120 degrees for whomever is in costume. On top of that, Knightro doesn’t stop during football games. He has to be a ball of energy the entire time.

What is the most unusual request you’ve ever had?

At a wedding, the best man gave Knightro the bride’s wedding ring. When it came time to exchange rings and the groom asked his best man for the ring, he pretended that he had lost the ring and couldn’t find it. Then the band started playing the UCF fight song and Knightro came running down the aisle with the ring in hand. That has to be one of the most original ways to give your future wife her wedding ring.

What’s your favorite Knightro memory?

One of my favorite memories is our trip to Ohio State for the 2011 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The day before the game, we were touring the football stadium and taking photos while pretending to play football. I attempted to tuck and roll, but I did a little too much tuck and not enough roll because I jumped straight up and landed on my shoulder. I got right back up and kept walking but then felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. I didn’t mention it to anybody and said my arm was OK to make sure I didn’t miss the opportunity to perform at an NCAA tournament game. When we got back to Orlando, I went to the doctor, and it turns out that pop was my collarbone snapping in half. All I can say is, “Worth it!”

If you could play any mascot other than Knightro, who would it be and why?

The Oregon Duck. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous of all the national attention that Duck gets. Speaking of which, Knightro needs an ESPN commercial.

Knightro is known for his style. What’s his favorite outfit?

Knightro has a bunch of great outfits, but my personal favorite is probably the Matador outfit he wears when we play USF. I also like to dress as Santa and ice skate at Light up UCF.

How do you clean that costume?

We fill a 30-gallon drum with cold water and then dunk all of the costume pieces and stir them around for a while. After we pull the costume out, we let it air dry for a few days.

Who has inspired you the most during your time at UCF?

I can’t imagine where I would be without the help and mentorship of caring members of the UCF faculty. I have been lucky enough to have six classes with Professor Dan Novatnak and choose him as a professor every chance I get. Professor Novatnak teaches his classes with a level of enthusiasm that engages everyone in the room. Every time I leave his class, I feel a little bit smarter and a little more enlightened about my future. He taught me that you will never work a day in your life if you do what you love, and that has inspired me to pursue my dreams.

What class has been your favorite and why?

Without a doubt, my favorite class has been Game Design Workshop. I am following the Game Design track of the Digital Media BA and eventually want to make video games for a living. Game Design Workshop is a class where you spend the semester developing one of your original ideas into a fully functional video game. It’s an amazing class that gave me confidence I made the correct career choice.

What it will mean for you to graduate next month with your dad?

My father has always been there for me with advice, encouragement and intelligence. Without him, or his advice, I don’t know how long I would have lasted in college. Getting the opportunity to graduate at the same time as my dad will be a unique and special moment that I will never forget.

Knightro Tryouts Information:

Students are invited to audition to suit up as Knightro. No experience is required. An audition meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 5, and tryouts will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at the Burnett Honors College on the main campus. For more information, contact Team Knightro Coach Michael Callahan at 407-823-2143 or Michael.callahan@ucf.edu