Before ‘Rocky, The Pride of The Rock’ graced football games and basketball games with his green mane and embodiment of school spirit, Slippery Rock University was home to a different mascot: Rocky the Rock.
The first Rocky the Rock mascot costume recently became an official part of SRU history, as the original wearer of the costume, Bob Jones, class of 1983, donated his handmade costume and other Rocky the Rock memorabilia to the Bailey Library Archives on Jan. 26.
Judy Silva, university archivist, explained that Jones decided to bring Rocky the Rock back after he had been in communication with Mark Chase, communication professor, and Chase encouraged him to do so. Jones came to campus on Jan. 26 with his wife to bring the costume.
Kevin McLatchy, archives technician, said that the University Archives are a great place for preservation and Jones was reassured that the Rocky the Rock costume would be left in good hands.
Andrew Hill, intern at the University Archives, conducted an interview with Jones on Feb. 24, as Jones returned to campus for a second time and they discussed Jones’ background and the history of Rocky the Rock.
“I grew up in State College, Pennsylvania,” Jones said during the interview. “My family had season tickets to Penn State football since I was two years old, so I grew up watching the Nittany Lion mascot. So as a small child, not knowing fully what was going on on the football field, my attention was always drawn towards the Nittany Lion mascot. So when I came to Slippery Rock and attended my first game as a freshman, I was very disappointed to find that there wasn’t a mascot at that time.”
Jones’ disappointment inspired him to create Rocky the Rock, with the collaboration of his parents, Dick and Frances Jones.
“[My father and I] would get together on Wednesday evenings at a nearby restaurant and I’d mentioned it to him that one of my first impressions was that there wasn’t a mascot at football games like I was used to at Penn State because I guess I just assumed that every school had one,” Jones said during the interview. “He looked at me very seriously and said ‘well why don’t you create one?’ So right there on a restaurant napkin, we drew what we thought would be a unique mascot that still captured the unique name of Slippery Rock State College.”
Jones explained that his family really wanted to create a mascot that children would be able to identify with, the way he once did when he saw the Nittany Lion.
Jones’ mother, a talented seamstress, handmade the costume for him based off of the napkin design. The design of the costume was patented, which Jones would later sign over to the university.
During the interview, Jones noted that it was very important that the overall appearance of Rocky the Rock was gender-neutral, which is why the costume’s face is very plain. He wanted the emotion of the mascot to not be portrayed in the face, but rather in the motions from inside the costume.
Rocky the Rock made his first debut in 1978 at an away football game against California State College and was active until Oct. 4, 1997. Rocky the Rock became the official mascot of, at the time, Slippery Rock State College about a year after the debut.
“Nobody knew I was coming, nobody knew I created the costume,” Jones explained during the interview. “We just made it very secretively and I just showed up on the sidelines.”
Silva explained that Jones remained anonymous while active.
During the interview, Jones said it was very important that Rocky had his own identity and not a student’s identity.
“I wanted to be Bob Jones the student, but I wanted Rocky to be the mascot and not have any blurred lines in between the two and I think that it added to the mystique that nobody knew who it was,” Jones said to Hill.
According to the interview, Rocky was a very mischievous mascot, causing Jones to find himself in trouble every now and then. During a football game against Edinboro, Jones broke his ankle.
“I would always steal a cheerleader from the opposing team, throw her over my shoulder, bring her over and have our cheerleaders kind of interact with them and we did it as a very, very playful thing,” Jones explained. “I would always take the cheerleader then back to where I got her, so I had returned an Edinboro cheerleader back to the Edinboro sidelines at a game at Edinboro and some of the Edinboro band members apparently taken offense to what I had done, so they started chasing me.”
Jones explained that while he was running, he could not see properly due to the distorted vision of the headpiece and broke his ankle. While being loaded into the ambulance, Jones refused to take the headpiece off while the ambulance doors were open, as he did not want to compromise his identity.
While Jones was active as Rocky, Rocky the Rock was nominated as homecoming king in 1982, but did not win.
Jones eventually revealed his identity at age 22 at a football game against Millersville in 1982. The Rocket later published an article on the subject on Nov. 12, 1982.
After Jones graduated, Jeannie Boone and Dave Eubank both portrayed Rocky the Rock from 1983 to 1985. However, Jones kept the original costume, meaning that two new Rocky the Rock costumes had to be created.
Jones explained that he is very humbled to have the original Rocky the Rock on display in the University Archives.
The University Archives are located on the third floor of Bailey Library. Rocky the Rock, as well as other memorabilia, are currently on display for students to see.