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The livelihood of Kaboom!

Photo by Tony Xu.

You wouldn’t know it unless you were a cheerleader, close friend or professor, but a December 2019 graduate was Bradley’s biggest cheerleader for three years. He even had an all-access pass to the NCAA Tournament in 2019.

Kaboom!, Bradley’s gargoyle mascot, is suited up for every home sporting event that requires cheer in attendance; soccer, volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball. In addition, he is often spotted in the community for marketing and community relations efforts.

Kaboom!’s identity has never been released just like every other mascot across the world. The Scout was given an interview with a former performer who will be referred to as “Jackson.” Bradley’s Associate AD for Communications and Event & Facility Operations, Bobby Parker, said that in the spirit of Kaboom! all performers should remain anonymous.

Jackson, a December graduate of BU, first got mascot experience performing as the Rochelle Zell high school tiger mascot, before suiting up  as Kaboom! for three years on the Hilltop. 

“I was like a superhero in the sense that I had the freedom to do what I want,” Jackson said.

He brought the energy and was there for the kids, just like nearly every mascot to exist. Jackson’s mascot advice to others?

“Be yourself and have as much fun as possible,” Jackson said. “The main thing is to be a crowd-pleaser, and the more you can motivate them the better.”

He said that being Kaboom! helped to grow his confidence and improved his dancing skills, which are always useful. Jackson now works as an English language tutor in the public school system, using his ability to interact with those younger than him. He even changed his Facebook name in hopes of hiding his identity from students similar to when he was Kaboom!. Most didn’t know who he was during his collegiate career.

Although Jackson didn’t have any signature moves, he said his actions were influenced by team play. He would react to thunderous dunks or 3-pointers with his hands. He also enjoyed miming Lebron James’ silencer foot pounding when Bradley took control of the game. 

According to head cheerleading coach Gillian Hobin, versatility is key for Kaboom!, and said the best performers are open-minded.

“[The graduate] always had an amazing attitude while being Kaboom! Whatever I asked of him he was able to do and always knocked it out of the park,” Hobin said. “He almost became a different person whenever he put on the uniform … Which, some people struggle with just letting loose and having fun.”

During the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament game in 2019, Kaboom! was told he would be doing a halftime dance competition with Michigan State’s legendary mascot, Sparty. However, when the time came, the public address system announced it would be a muscle-flexing competition, a surefire surprise.

“I was getting all prepared for the dance [but they switched it] and I was like ‘do they know who is in this thing?’ I’m kind of scrawny,” Jackson said. “It was tough trying to figure out how to flex big. I think Michigan State’s mascot paid them off.”

Sparty won.

While in Des Moines he also took a photo with NBA all-star and current color commentator Reggie Miller. The national television personality requested it.

“I got on Reggie Miller’s Instagram and that’s not something, meeting a celebrity, that happens very often,” Jackson said.

During his career as the Braves’ mascot, he on occasion had to tell his teachers he would be missing class because of cheer team commitments. This usually went over smoothly, but English professor Seth Katz once asked him to stay back after class to be briefed on the next class lecture.

“He told me ‘You’re not a cheerleader, how long have you been the mascot?’” Jackson said. “I told him and then found out that [Katz’s] son was the mascot at Kansas.”

You never know who is going to be acting as the mascot or when you’ll walk by one on campus. Most times, Kaboom! is a Bradley student. 

Although there is already a new Kaboom!, anyone can attempt to join the rotation by reaching out to Hobin. She said that the best performers are creative and want to constantly improve. Kaboom! needs to be able to be quick thinking and creative. There’s a legacy to follow: Kaboom! was named the top mascot of the 2019 tournament in a USA Today article.

“When looking for a potential Kaboom!, energy is the number one,” Hobin said. “Also, someone who is willing to take any suggestions. I love it when they do research to better themselves as Kaboom.”

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