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Sharing Pitt Memories

I Dreamed of Becoming a Roc Star


Richard Dodge (A&S ’95):

As a kid being treated for childhood leukemia at University Children’s Hospital, across the street from Pitt Stadium, it became my dream to attend Pitt—and to become the Pitt Panther. I had the honor of being Roc from 1994 to 1995. It was something that only a select few of us get the pleasure of doing, and I had that opportunity. It will always be part of me, and I respect those who wore the costume before and those who will in the future.

Many people think it’s easy to do what we did—not true. The costume weighs between 25 and 35 lbs., and the job requires the person wearing it to run around like a crazy person for two to three hours. I used to lose 7-10 lbs. a game! It was all worth it, though.

I remember playing a one-on-one basketball game with the St. John’s mascot at Madison Square Garden in New York and scoring a basket while our band cheered me on. I led the Civic Arena in waving the Terrible Towel during a playing of the Steelers fight song at one of our games the day before the AFC Championship Game. I was even brought back to cheer during the last game at Pitt Stadium and remember being on the field and seeing my parents in the stands just before the stadium went crazy as we beat Notre Dame. That was the first and last time that they ever got to see me perform as the Panther. However, my best memory is running out on the field with the football team for the first time and barely being able to see through the mesh mouth of the Panther head. It was the greatest feeling in the world! 

Imagine that: A kid who battled leukemia was eventually transformed into the ultimate Pitt superhero. Thank you to my coach, Theresa Nuzzo, all of my fellow squad members, and the Pitt Athletic Department for helping make my childhood dream come true.