Jan. 29, 2011

by Rachel Horton '13

For senior Tim Higgins, Saint Joseph's basketball has been in his blood for life. With his father, Tim Sr., who graduated from the university in 1976, Higgins has been coming to games since grade school, along with his mother, Ellen, and younger sisters Maureen and Claire. From the games at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West to Hagan Arena, where he now serves as "The Hawk," Higgins can't get enough basketball.

Higgins has played basketball since he was five years old. After his freshman year in high school at Camden Catholic in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Higgins decided to take his basketball career to the next level and help coach. He coached one year for intramurals and the other two for travel teams.

"It was kind of unusual for a high school kid to be doing that," says Higgins, but his passion for the game made it possible, just like his passion for the game made him having the privilege of being The Hawk possible.

With many other students applying for the position, head coach Phil Martelli and athletic director Don DiJulia saw potential in Higgins and chose him to be the 2010-2011 season's mascot. They made the right decision.

Once he was given the opportunity to uphold the tradition that "The Hawk Will Never Die," Higgins got to work, seeking advice from former Hawks Tim Klarich and Brienne Ryan on how to train. Soon after, he was standing in his living room with his Hawk suit on, flapping away. It became a normal task for him.

"I would just stand there and flap," he said. "I would go from a half hour to an hour to an hour and a half, and by the end I had two hours down regularly."

He did not stop there. Higgins also would spend time after practice running in figure eights in the gym just to get the motion down. He has now gotten used to a suit weighing at least 15 pounds and sweat dripping into his eyes from the hard work of flapping the entire game a tradition he will never let die. Higgins continues to stay committed.

"It's a lot of hours, and a big commitment to sacrifice a lot of other things," Higgins says. "But I've never viewed it as a burden to go to practice everyday because I enjoy it."

Making his first appearance as the team's high-flying mascot (the 33rd Hawk to flap its wings) on November 12 against Western Kentucky was just the start of a storybook of memories.

"There's just no particular memory [that stands out] being the Hawk; I think every game is memorable when you put that costume on and you run out of the locker room as if you were a player," Higgins says. Nineteen games later, he still gets the same feeling leading the Hawks onto the court and hearing the roar of the crowd.

As a quiet person who doesn't look for much attention, being the Hawk allows him to be a different person, and he loves it.

"It's a lot more attention that I'm used to," he says. "I like feeling like a different person."

He loves being a part of, and upholding, such a great tradition, and also how he has been given the opportunity of being treated as a St. Joe's basketball team member. With a locker in the locker room, and dressing with the team before games just like the players, he feels he is embraced by the entire Hawk basketball team, and especially by coach Martelli, with whom he has a close relationship. The team has taught him much more about the sport and has made his passion grow. He loves basketball and always has, so what better way of being involved than being The Hawk?

For Higgins, there is no better way.

Traveling with the team is rare for mascots; The Hawk is one of the few mascots in the country who has the opportunity to do so. On the road, many opposing fans approach him to take pictures. Even those who do not know much about The Hawk come up to him.

"There is a lot of awe and admiration," says Higgins. "It's overwhelming to me how many people just love The Hawk." Being taunted by other teams will never change his passion because to him, it is just part of being The Hawk.

He views the opportunity to don the feathers of The Hawk as a great honor and takes great pleasure in representing such a great school and program.

Not only is Higgins "The Hawk," but he is also one of the team's managers. He has been a manager since his sophomore year at Saint Joseph's. He has mastered how to manage his time and keep himself focused with both school and basketball. His involvement as a manager and now as The Hawk has helped him with his schoolwork, because he no longer has a large amount of time to do it, and instead is forced to focus on getting it done on a tighter schedule.

His involvement with basketball has been growing since a young age, but nothing compares to his role now - being the Saint Joseph's University Hawk. For Tim Higgins, it is an honor that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

"I'll always be a Saint Joseph's University basketball fan," says Higgins. "I'll be coming to games as long as I can, and it'll be great to say I was a part of it."