Inside Mizzou Podcast:
Tiger Football, Ep. 4
With the 2018 football season off to a great start, the Tigers are ready to roar; ready to celebrate the Tiger spirit with the Mizzou cheerleaders, Golden Girls and Tiger’s Lair; ready to hear the wonderful music from Marching Mizzou. Because the tremendous experience of Tiger football goes beyond the end zone.
Joining Chancellor Cartwright this week are Ashton Dobson, a Mizzou cheerleader and senior studying journalism with an emphasis in strategic communication, and Hunter Willow, a Marching Mizzou drum major and junior studying public health. We discuss what makes Tiger Football so special and how these two unique roles help generate Tiger pride during games.
Moderator: [00:00:07] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics, the University of Missouri works 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. Today’s episode is called “Tiger Football.” You can hear the roar from Faurot Field miles around Columbia — fans shouting “M-I-Z!” and “Z-O-U!” or the eruption that follows a touchdown. This Saturday is Mizzou’s SEC home-opener against Georgia. Welcome to the Zou. Joining Chancellor Cartwright today are Ashton Dobson, a Mizzou cheerleader, and Hunter Willow, a drum major in Marching Mizzou. Thank you all for being here so much. We really appreciate it. Ashton and Hunter, each of you has a very special role during our football games. Could you just tell us a little bit about that role and what brought you to Mizzou?
Ashton Dobson: [00:01:08] Yes, so I am one of our university’s cheerleaders. My job at the game is really just getting the crowd riled up and keeping the energy high. We are the people on the sidelines doing those crazy flips and stunts, and we also get to start the “M-I-Z!” “Z-O-U!” chant, which is one of my favorite parts.
Hunter Willow: [00:01:25] Yeah, kind of going off that, same kind of boat. We in Marching Mizzou are here for bringing out that traditional music that we all love and hear and know the words to. So, especially with like “Eye Of The Tiger” — everybody recognizes that and gets going and recognizes all our classic, traditional tunes and is a part of that and makes that Mizzou culture just one.
Moderator: [00:01:48] So, Ashton, how long have you been a cheerleader for Mizzou?
Ashton Dobson: [00:01:53] For Mizzou, this is my fourth year, and I am so excited to go into my senior season. And I’m going to be a wreck the whole time.
Moderator: [00:02:00] So, what got you into cheerleading?
Ashton Dobson: [00:02:02] I actually started gymnastics, and when I was, I think, in the second grade, we moved houses to a new neighborhood, and the girl across the street was a cheerleader. I was like, “Oh, I want to do what Molly does.” And here I am 10 years later. So, yeah, I’ve been doing this for a long time.
Moderator: [00:02:19] And then Hunter, kind of going off of that: How long have you been a part of Marching Mizzou?
Hunter Willow: [00:02:23] I’ve been a part of Marching Mizzou for three years now. This will be my junior season with Marching Mizzou. But I’ve been in a drum major role through high school and college now for five years. So, kind of keeping it going, keeping the spirit alive.
Moderator: [00:02:37] What I kind of got you into it?
Hunter Willow: [00:02:40] Honestly, my freshman year of high school I was very involved in my high school band and talked with the drum majors then in high school, and I was very talkative with them in finding out what goes on in just being a drum major and thought it was super interesting. So, I tried out, got the position and ever since it’s been the dream.
Moderator: [00:03:00] Yeah. Well, kind of switching gears a little bit: Chancellor Cartwright, you are not a cheerleader, and you are not in Marching Mizzou. But you still have a special role when it comes to these football games. What does Tiger Football mean to you? Why is it so special to you?
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:03:17] Well, I think it’s one of those times when we bring the whole community together and we have a common interest. We want to see our Tigers win. And I think being part of that and seeing all that’s going on within the stadium really makes it quite special. You see so many groups — you see our Marching Mizzou of course, you see the cheer team, you see Truman running around. You also see our incredible ROTC students there, and they’re shooting the cannon. And I will tell you, if you ever get a chance to shoot the cannon, it’s a lot of fun. So, I’d encourage you to try it. But it really is that combination of things that brings us together around a common area of interests.
Moderator: [00:04:00] So, kind of going off of that, why is athletics an important part of the college experience?
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:04:07] So, I think that is what helps to build the community, helps to get you connected to the university. You know, my wife Melinda was in the marching band at Iowa. So, she had to go through that type of experience similar to what Hunter did and really seeing all of the things that it does for your life in general. You have to really take a lot of time being part of that and being part of any one of these — Marching Mizzou or cheer — takes a lot of time, and I think it helps to prepare those students who are actively involved in it for their future because it gives them that experience that helps them to be leaders in the future. I think, overall, athletics gives us a place where we see something that we all enjoy watching all the different sports. You know, I think it’s terrific to get out to as many of those as possible, and you see the commitment that the young people have to their sports. I think we’re all willing and want to make sure that they’re as successful as possible, so we’re there to cheer them collectively.
Moderator: [00:05:17] Ashton and Hunter, any thoughts about that — how important athletics is to the college experience?
Ashton Dobson: [00:05:23] Yeah, absolutely. I can’t imagine my life, especially being at Mizzou and not being a cheerleader, I just can’t imagine it. Being from Kansas City, I always dreamed of being a Mizzou cheerleader. I think I still have a napkin from when I was eight, and all the Mizzou cheerleaders signed it, and I still have it, as crazy as that is.
Moderator: [00:05:40] Wow.
Ashton Dobson: [00:05:40] I know, I was obssesed. So, being that girl that I used look up to is just an experience that I’m so grateful for. Being able to represent my home and my university is something I’m so proud of.
Hunter Willow: [00:05:53] Absolutely. I’m in that same boat with just the camaraderie that comes from this university — especially towards athletics — is truly incredible. I remember my mom came home with a Marching Mizzou CD, “The Marching Into Millennium.” And I immediately grabbed onto it, threw it in the stereo and went, “Wow, I love all these tunes! I want to learn to play these tunes! I want to be a part of this!” Nothing speaks tradition quite like Marching Mizzou because what we bring is incredible.
Moderator: [00:06:23] Definitely. Kind of what the Chancellor was saying about experience and leadership qualities — like leadership experiences — that a lot of people gain when being a part of athletics, whether it be in Marching Mizzou, cheerleader or on the field itself. How has being a part of Marching Mizzou kind of shaped you as a student or as a leader or as an individual in general?
Hunter Willow: [00:06:47] Certainly something it has done for me is time management because Dr. Knopps, who is truly one of the most incredible people I have ever met hands down, she keeps the most tight schedule, and I love it. Her schedule is, “At this time, you’re doing this, at this time doing this, this time doing this.” But it works because she makes it functional for all of us. So we’re able to go, “We’re doing this, okay now we’re doing this, okay not we’re doing this, oh look game time. Here we go!” There’s always a structure and process to everything that makes it incredible for all of us.
Ashton Dobson: [00:07:19] Yeah, time management I really appreciate now because being in athletics and being a student, which obviously comes before anything, causes me to balance a lot of aspects of my life. And I noticed that a lot in the professional world balancing different projects, and I was able to do that pretty well because I was a student-athlete.
Hunter Willow: [00:07:37] Absolutely. I mean especially — we have these things called ‘mini gigs’ where we’ll send a small portion of the band to go and represent us somewhere on campus, and so they’ll do that and then we’ll have practice right after that. But then there could also be another ‘mini gig’ later that night or a volleyball game or there’s always something going on that helps you kind of structure yourself and just make sure you know what you’re doing.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:08:01] Yes, Mini Mizzou was there when they announced me as chancellor.
Moderator: [00:08:04] Yeah, we were just talking about that on our way here actually — how we love Mini Mizzou.
Hunter Willow: [00:08:09] I love Mini Mizzou.
Moderator: [00:08:09] Both of you are like behind the scenes, I guess, or have a more inside depth look at what is going on with these football games and athletics in general. Can you tell us a little bit more about stuff that people don’t necessarily see all the time and that you are involved in or you see alot?
Hunter Willow: [00:08:34] The amount of work that we all put in. I mean, I know Marching Mizzou — we meet the week before classes actually begin. We’re meeting from 8:30 a.m. in the morning to 8:30 p.m. at night. We’re working pregame, halftime, stands tunes. We’re going through all of this stuff so that when it comes time for game time, we’re ready to go. We’re there, we’re helping you guys get on with the Mizzou tradition.
Ashton Dobson: [00:08:55] Absolutely, yeah. I think about the hours that we put in and the amount of times that I’ve gotten hit in the face and been like “Well, I got to do this again.” But it does make it worth it. Being on game day is nothing like — it’s hard to explain, it’s not like anything else in my life. I’m sure, Hunter, you know about this: When the team runs out, that is like my favorite part that most students don’t get to get. Because I’m running down the field, and that’s my moment when I take a moment and I look around Faurot Field and I see just the packed stands, and it just makes me remember, “OK, why did I do like all these crazy flips? Why am I standing on this hundred-degree turf?” It’s crazy I think all these crazy things, but I’m like, “No, that moment is so worth it.” I have cried a few times from running down the field because I just love it so much.
Hunter Willow: [00:09:39] It’s gone from — the first time marching out on to Faurot my freshman year I was like a deer in headlights: “I don’t know what’s going on. I am terrified. There’s 70,000 people — like what am I doing.” But now, it’s gotten to the point where like I’m going to own this. I love this. I love this university. Let’s go.
Moderator: [00:09:58] Yeah. Ashton, you were talking about your favorite moment or your favorite kind of experience whenever it comes to games. What are y’all’s favorite experience or favorite aspect of the game?
Hunter Willow: [00:10:10] Mine would have to be pregame. Our pregame performance is unlike anything in the country. We try to keep to our traditions and want to show fans what we can accomplish and just the pictures of Missouri, like when we build the state. Or we’ll do — we’ll build the star for when we’re doing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and we want to make the experience more memorable for the fans. So, just doing our pregame show is amazing. I love everything about it, and especially this year because I’ll be running down the field rather than marching down the field, so keep an eye out for that.
Ashton Dobson: [00:10:44] Yeah, take that moment to look around. I promise you it’s awesome.
Hunter Willow: [00:10:47] Take the moment like, “Oh, wow! Here we are!”
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:10:49] I mean, I would go into a little bit of what Ashton said. It’s actually just that time of when you walk out onto the field and you see everybody there because up until the start of the game you’re not seeing any of that. And then when you get there and you get onto the field, it’s just a completely different feel than anything, and that’s probably the best part of the game as you start realizing we’re going now, we have stuff going on. You know, and then later on in the game there’s a lot of great things that happen. I mean, I think our alma mater is one of the best alma maters you could have, and being able to sing that and coming together again to sing that is something that I feel is really special about the entire game. And of course, like I said, shooting the cannon is really a lot of fun.
Hunter Willow: [00:11:34] Yeah, definitely going back on that: The alma mater is something so special to me. I have played it, and I’ve sung it. So, being able to sing the alma mater with Marching Mizzou after every practice — I mean, it honestly has sometimes brought tears to my eyes, I’m not going to lie. Just because it’s so deep down in my soul of just, “I love this.”
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:11:58] I don’t know if any of you have heard them sing it after practice, but I think it’s something you really should listen to. I think you do it in a four-part harmony, I believe, if I’m right.
Hunter Willow: [00:12:07] We do.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:12:07] And it’s really, it’s impressive to hear because they’re not playing any instruments. It’s completely just them, and it’s wonderful to hear.
Ashton Dobson: [00:12:15] Yeah, I was going to say after the bowl game, Dr. Knopps gathered all the band together, and we were eating our dinner, so — and obviously none of the cheerleaders can sing — but I got to experience that moment that you’re talking about. And it really was just so beautiful. And I knew I was about to go into my senior season, so I’m a wreck, but it was just such a really beautiful moment to hear you guys sing the alma mater.
Hunter Willow: [00:12:37] That plus we were all dead-tired after the bowl game. Because it was like 11:30 p.m., and we were just — oh man, it was exhausting that day.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:12:44] You know, I think it’s one of the things people don’t realize, too, is how much time and effort the students put in when they go on those trips. Yes, they get to go to those trips, but it isn’t a pleasure trip at all. It’s a lot of work, and they’re working from morning until night with the games.
Moderator: [00:13:03] This is just something that I’m really curious about because just the way that I hear both of you kind of talk about the team aspect, the community aspect of things. And it seems like y’all have bonded so much within your perspective organizations or groups. What are some fun little bonding things that you do within Marching Mizzou and within cheerleading because I’d love to hear them?
Ashton Dobson: [00:13:29] I guess my favorite moment about cheerleading is we compete once a year in Daytona. So, we all take a 20-hour bus ride down to Florida. It’s pretty crazy. I would say the bus ride there and the bus ride home, as odd as it sounds, are some of the best moments. Because you spend so much time with these people — we have practiced the whole entire week before. And again, we’re exhausted, tensions are kind of high, but, yeah, being that family and overcoming the nerves of competing and the challenges that we’ve gone through. I would say competing with my team really, who is my family, is my favorite moment.
Hunter Willow: [00:14:04] Oh yeah, I mean marching Mizzou is no doubt about it my family here at the university. I love every moment of being with them, and the things that we do are just amazing, and I love them all so dearly. But going to like what kind of things do we do: During our summer camp, when we’re actually like learning pregame and all that stuff, we’ll take a break sometime during the day, and we’ll just play games. Like we had a relay race, and one drum major would put something in the air and say, “OK, go get me a shoe.” And one member from every section would run and grab a shoe and then immediately come back, and whoever was last was out, and we went down, and we did finals, we did points and all that kind of stuff. And during Homecoming week, we do something similar where we have dress-up days. So, I know some days are like ‘Thunder Thursday,’ which is something that the baritones do where everybody dresses up super nice like super fancy clothing, where they’re wearing suits in like 92 degrees and marching with instruments. Oh man, it’s a good time. Let me tell you.
Ashton Dobson: [00:15:07] Yeah, that’s awesome. Oh, I just remembered. We always do — this is also something fun that we do. Over the summer, we have a few practice weekends, and we always have this lake party. And so, Coach Thompson — we always go to her friends who live on a lake, and they throw this big barbecue for us. It really is one of the funnest things because we do arts and crafts and you have to swim across the lake, and it is a far swim. But this year, all the seniors — and it’s funny because freshman year you’re kind of like, “Oh, I want to leave early,” and then as a senior, I think, we were the last ones to leave because we’re like, “This is our last moment.” But yeah, the lake party. Just being able to kind of take that moment away from cheerleading and just be friends is really nice.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:15:45] Those are the types of experiences that help with college in general. What people don’t realize sometimes is that retention rates, graduation rates all improve with the more you’re engaged with the university, the more you engage with things that are happening at your institution. And so, we want to encourage people to be involved in as many of these types of organizations, build that community, have that family that is helping you go through what it means to be in college and what it means to be successful. And to make you realize that you certainly can do it all because you have peers around you that you’re watching and they’re doing it so you know you’re quite capable of doing it also. So, it helps all around.
Moderator: [00:16:27] Well, thank you all so much for being here today. I learned a lot. I also had a really good time. You’re making me very hyped for Mizzou football, so I’m ready to go. Now, one more thing before we leave.
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:16:40] Wait, we don’t get to do “M-I-Z!” or anything?
Moderator: [00:16:40] Oh, we can if you want to.
Hunter Willow: [00:16:41] Oh, absolutely!
Chancellor Cartwright: [00:16:41] We’re going to have to do that.
Moderator: [00:16:41] Alright, ready? Alright, M-I-Z!
Everyone: [00:16:41] Z-O-U!
Moderator: [00:16:48] Ok! But once again, one thing before we leave: Why did the stadium get too hot after the game?
Ashton Dobson: [00:16:55] I don’t know.
Hunter Willow: [00:16:56] Beats me.
Moderator: [00:16:56] Because all the fans left!
Ashton Dobson: [00:17:03] Ok, that’s pretty good. That’s good.
Moderator: [00:17:10] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is “Forest Park Rapsody,” composed by MU undergraduate and music composition major, Ben Colagiovanni. You can find more information about Ben and his piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time, and keep an eye out for the chancellor’s newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Inside Mizzou. See you around the columns!