“I’M HERE FOR MOTIVATION FOR THE K-STATE FAN BASE, COACHES AND FAMILY. EMAW!!!!!!!!! ALL OTHERS, FEAR THE WRATH OF THE K-STATE MASK!!!!!!”
With that mission statement made Aug. 29 on Twitter, The K-State Mask began his reign as the self-appointed motivator of K-State fans. He does this through pep talks posted on YouTube before and after football games.
The Mask does not reveal his identity in order, he says, to protect his mystique and for other personal reasons. “The great part about wearing the mask is when I take it off, I’m still me,” he said. “That’s why we try to protect the identity. I can go out to eat and not be totally blitzed with people.”
The facts are that the Mask is an increasing celebrity these days among K-State fans. His most popular video to date, posted just prior to the season-opening game with Missouri State, was approaching 80,000 views Friday morning. At games he can be seen posing for pictures and signing autographs. Even Miami fans recognized him last week when the Hurricanes played K-State.
He’s gotten some mainstream attention with CBS Sports Network showing one of his videos on air. Eric Stonestreet, K-State alum and actor on ABC’s “Modern Family,” posted the link of a K-State Mask video for his 300,000-plus followers on Twitter.
The journey to becoming the Mask began last football season when he bought the mask at Cat’s Closet at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Before this season, he decided to make his fandom more known.
“It started off as something fun in my living room making a video on my digital camera,” the Mask said. His fiancée filmed it. When that video started to take off, representatives of 502 Media Group downtown contacted him about working together, and things have grown from there.
The Mask is a lot of things beyond what is seen on videos. He says he is a lover of all sports, not just football. “If I can find something to get excited about, I’ll do it,” he said. “The last winter Olympics I watched curling for two days straight.”
The Mask is also a blusher. “I like to tell people I’m glad my mask covers my cheeks because I blush a lot,” he said. The videos, which generally have about a ten-to-one “like” vs. “dislike” ratio, have given him reason to blush. “It’s overwhelming,” he said. “Seeing the comments just motivates me to be great for people…to keep doing what I’m doing.”
In case people were wondering, the Mask doesn’t use any stinking script when he records his videos. He said he typically receives a call 30 minutes before a shoot instructing him to go to the location selected by his video producers. Once there, he improvises his lines.
“If you were to look at the videos we recorded without all the editing, you’ll see a little facial expression or a little glint in my eyes where you can see I caught on to something and running with it,” he said.
It might be a surprise for some to learn that K-State’s newest ultimate fan isn’t actually from Manhattan. “That’s why sports are so great,” he said. “You don’t have to be from a certain place to love a team.”
He grew up in southern Illinois, first arriving in the area when stationed at Fort Riley in 2010. He spent eight years in the Army and went through two deployments in Iraq before being medically retired earlier this year due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Mask said being in this role is helping him with his PTSD and adjusting to civilian life. He said he’s getting used to being around the large crowds he has begun to attract.
“There’s a world outside the Army that a lot of guys forget about when they’re in for so long and go through a couple of tours,” he said. “You start to forget the little things, but this is helping me remember them again. Making people happy and making people smile.”
The Mask said one of the football players told him that the videos are popular among the team. He said yelling to linebacker Arthur Brown, his favorite player, on the sideline and having Brown recognize him during the Miami game is a highlight.
It’s a subject that gets him a little flustered. “I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a little schoolgirl,” he said. “I mean he’s awesome.”
The Mask is also getting business opportunities based off his videos including Mask t-shirts being sold by Varney’s Bookstore. “I shot cannons in the Army,” he said. “I never had anything to do with no business or anything.”
The shirt doesn’t have K-State logos and isn’t purple because K-State hasn’t approved it. The Mask said university officials told him they appreciate the passion but didn’t want to be a part of it right now.
The Mask said he thinks that some of the issue might have to do with his videos being unscripted. “They’ll worry I’m going to come out dropping f-bombs and make them look bad when I’m not because I want to be as family-friendly as possible,” he said.
Some of his videos might contain a few colorful words but not in excess, he said. “Saying the s-word a little bit is okay to a lot of people because, I mean, you see it on mainstream media these days,” he said.
The Mask said he would like to donate a portion of the t-shirt’s profits to Wounded Warriors once he gets the university’s blessing.
K-State plays the University of North Texas at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Mask is always ready for football, which made it no surprise to see this on his Twitter page Friday morning.
“Dear North Texas, it is just over 24 hours from your game of reckoning! We respect you coming here but we will make you wish you never came!”