There's something about a live mascot at a football game that gives its team that certain edge or its crowd that certain spirit.
Live mascots typically are reserved for many of college football's most storied programs.
But not at Thomson High School, where Bones, a 2-year-old English Bulldog, runs onto the field with his owner and caretaker, Griff Garrison, to start games. Afterward, they stand on the sideline, where Bones can strike fear into the hearts of opposing players.
The new official mascot of the undefeated Thomson High School Bulldogs has been an immediate success.
"Bones gives a different feel to the game. He doesn't really change the game any, but as far as enjoyment, some of the fans just love to see him. It's one thing to see a guy run around in a suit, but to see a live bulldog, it gives an excitement," Garrison said. "We run out after the players with the coaches and the cheerleaders. Usually he's pulling me or pulling two cheerleaders. He gets real excited."
The way Bones handles a crowd is impressive. Garrison typically places a stuffed-toy representation of the opposing team - Gators, Wolves, you name it - in front of Bones and promptly watches it get torn to shreds. Add the bulldog's ferocious barking to this little sideshow, and Bones can become a catalyst for an adrenaline rush for the fans and the players.
"Whenever they're doing the (national) anthem and announcing the starters, he's in the endzone with Griff and is barking the whole time. We as fans see that, and it's just a totally different feeling when you've got the mascot on the sideline," said Cindy McCorkle, an alumna of Thomson High School and a longtime Bulldog fan.
This is Bones' first full year as a mascot for Thomson High School, but you wouldn't know it. Bones has "definitely" become a symbol of Thomson High School football, according to Garrison.
"I have several fans that come up and give the congratulatory handshake, and then they give the congratulatory rubdown of the dog," he said.
Bones, the mascot for Thomson High School Bulldogs, relaxes during a 27-10 playoff win over Shaw at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Photo by Chris Thelen
Bulldog radio announcer Ralph Starling agrees that Bones has added a special aura to a remarkable season.
"He adds tremendous atmosphere," he said. "Little kids especially love him. He's a gorgeous dog. It's just great to have him on the sidelines."
Although Bones didn't take part in any pep rallies this year, Garrison insists that Bones' role will expand.
"We're going to do pep rallies next year. And there's talk of pulling a fire hydrant out there and letting him pull it around," he said.
Bones isn't just any bulldog, either. He's a descendant of UGA IV, one of the bulldogs that have manned the sidelines at the University of Georgia.
Not only does Thomson High School have an outstanding football team this season, but they also have a special, beloved mascot.
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