By JAYCIE DOERR, NEWS3 Reporter
Western Illinois University has two mascots, both a live mascot named Colonel Rock and a man in a mascot suit.
Currently, WIU is on its fourth live mascot, Colonel Rock IV (a.k.a Ray), but the story behind the beloved mascot is a long one. The first mascot at WIU was a live english bulldog named Colonel Rock, who was adopted in 1959. When he retired, the second mascot Colonel Rock II, or Rocky, came to be at WIU. After the third Rocky passed, the suited mascot began its reign and there was a 37-year time span between Colonel Rock II and Colonel Rock III, the current live mascot.
It was a football player’s father who pushed WIU to start the live mascot program again. “He was at every game,” Joe Roselieb, the current live mascot handler, said. “He’s that guy that had the son’s number embroidered on his polo.”
At the time, the football team was doing well, but not great, according to Roselieb. The player’s parent thought that a little spirit was needed on the field. He petitioned the administration to adopt another live mascot, but it was not approved, however he did not give up. The parent found a breeder in Kansas that would donate Colonel Rock III to WIU, as well as he raised money to provide for the dog. WIU could only agree.
“I often joke it was harder to get the dog than it was to get my job at Western,” Roselieb said about being chosen as the handler for Colonel Rock III.
WIU decided in 2019 to retire Colonel Rock III and adopt the current live mascot, Ray. Colonel Rock III died in 2020 due to health complications and now Ray is the full-time mascot.