The Hawk is one of the most recognizable mascots in college sports, gaining national recognition and accolades in the more than 60 years since its inception. Continuous flapping and running figure eights around the court during timeouts are the Hawk’s hallmarks and helped inspire the University’s slogan, “The Hawk Will Never Die.”
Only 39 students have served as the Hawk for the Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball team. Senior Domenic Godshall is the squad’s mascot this season, though he isn’t new to the costume. Far from it.
Godshall got his first taste of being the Hawk in the spring semester of his freshman year when Timmy Parks ’17, the mascot at the time, asked Godshall to fill in at a few on-campus appearances. It was a new concept for Godshall, but he decided to give it a shot.
“Right away, I loved it,” Godshall said. “Besides flapping my wings nonstop, I really enjoyed making people smile.”
Division I athletics were necessary when Godshall was choosing a college. The Lititz, Pennsylvania, native grew up a huge Philadelphia Phillies fan, and played baseball for several years before picking up ice hockey in high school.
Though he couldn’t continue his playing career in college, Godshall knew he wanted to stay involved in sports. He also knew he wanted to go to school in or near Philadelphia. St. Joe’s sports marketing major and status as a basketball school made it the perfect fit.
Godshall served as a student manager for the men’s basketball team his freshman year, and his newfound love of being the Hawk drew him to the women’s basketball team the following year. He spent two seasons with the team as the mascot and a manager.
When he began serving as the mascot for the women’s team, he was a little surprised at his anonymity, but grew to appreciate it.
“It’s like being Peter Parker,” Godshall said. “You can put the suit on and everybody gets excited and they’re hyped up, and then you take the suit off and you’re yourself again… It’s been a fun, anonymous persona I’ve been able to put on.”
Given his experience, Godshall decided to apply to be the men’s mascot for his senior year. The selection processes for the men’s and women’s mascot positions were similar, although it might be different from what fans would expect.
“A lot of people think that there’s this ‘flap-off’ and everybody stands on the baseline and just flaps for as long as they can and the last man standing is the one who gets the position, but I tell people it’s a lot less exciting than that,” Godshall said with a laugh.
Applicants write an essay detailing why they want to be the Hawk, interview with the athletic director and outgoing mascot, and submit a letter of recommendation from an SJU employee. Finalists then meet one-on-one with head coach Phil Martelli in his office. No flapping at any point in the process.
Godshall wasn’t worried about flapping his wings for extended periods of time, though. It was almost second nature for him at that point. He hadn’t trained or conditioned for his first few appearances during his freshman year, but adrenaline fueled him. After all, the last thing he’d want to do is stop flapping his wings at a public appearance.
“The first couple times, it’s hard,” Godshall said. “It’s like being a distance runner. The first time you try to run five miles, it’s long and tough and really tiring, but then, after you do it a couple of times, your body kind of conditions to it and you can go out and run five miles no problem. Then the next challenge is running eight. It’s the same thing with me. At first, I could do an hour really well. Then I could do two, and then three. One of these days I’m going to see how long I can do it non-stop.”
In addition to his on-court mascot duties, Godshall also serves as one of the head managers for the team, spending three or four hours in Hagan Arena on practice days.
Being the Hawk also entails a variety of other on- and off-campus appearances. Godshall has gotten to know most of the other mascots from the local college and professional teams through community events.
“It almost a fraternity in a way,” Godshall said. “You have a level of respect for each other for what you do and everything, so it’s been a lot of fun getting to know those guys.”
Those kind of appearances are always fun, but Godshall especially enjoys being the Hawk at weddings. When alumni request the Hawk to appear at their wedding, he’ll go to the reception, take photos with the newlyweds and guests, and dance.
Godshall has a strong sense of who is as the Hawk from his numerous public and on-court appearances. It wasn’t always that way, though. At first, he wasn’t sure what he could do other than flap his wings. The more time he spent in the costume, the more comfortable he became, injecting his personality and energy into his portrayal.
“It’s one of the few opportunities in life where you can make a total goof of yourself and have no consequences for it,” Godshall said. “When I put on the suit—I’m a horrible dancer, but I dance anyway and try to have fun with it and get away with some stuff you couldn’t otherwise.”
When Godshall came to St. Joe’s, being a mascot wasn’t on his radar. A lot has changed since then, and he’s loved every minute of being the Hawk.