Kyle McQuaid’s life trajectory turned on a dare during his sophomore year at Ohio State. Kyle shared the 10th floor of Park Hall with members of the Buckeye football team. Their weekly Thursday night routine was the triangular loop of south campus dorm, Spring Break (bar), and grabbing a “gyro-for-a-buck” on the way home. A flyer taped on a campus light pole at 11th and High Street in April of 1987 caught the attention of Kyle and his roommates: “Mascot Tryouts-Saturday-French Field House!”

“Hey, you should do this! You can travel with us!” said one of the players. “I DARE you!!” That was all the encouragement Kyle needed. Having been Strongsville High School’s drum major who led his 200+ member Marching Mustang band in an Orange Bowl parade, leadership and ability was not the initial concern. Brutus tryouts were on the exact same day as the Scarlet & Gray Show tryouts, a group that had been part of Kyle’s daily routine for the past 18 months. He was caught between loyalty and the lure of being Brutus.


Kyle had no former Brutus as a mentor, no clue about how to try out, but soon figured it out with the help of Scarlet & Gray teammates Todd Fournier and Jim Stevenson in the basement of Weigel Hall, 24 hours after reading the flyer and just over 12 hours prior to tryouts.  Kyle successfully navigated the face-to-face interview, the cheers, and the requisite routine to “Hang on Sloopy,” but it was his 2-minute skit about Brutus waking up on game day that likely put him at the top of the tryouts. The skit, set to classical music, followed a morning in the life of Brutus—from brushing his teeth to Morning Moon, washing clothes to the Marriage of Figaro, eating breakfast to Mozart and finally competing against a Wolverine to Chariots of Fire (slow motion, of course!). With Kyle’s knack for good fortune, someone filmed his tryout and ran it on WBNS-TV that evening.

Kyle attended mascot and cheerleading camps to further hone his skills. In August 1988, he joined 55 other mascots in Tennessee to develop and perfect techniques in non-verbal communication, walking in character, and over-exaggerating motions.  More importantly, they learned what NOT to do. Mascot training emphasized the importance of ALWAYS remaining in character, as they represent much more to a school than just a funny looking sideline figure, they also represent the brand and personality of the university, and in Brutus’s world, the entire State of Ohio. That didn’t leave out “fun,” a key mascot ingredient. When the entire cohort of mascots, in uniform, traveled in 20 vans to a movie theater to watch Roger Rabbit, Kyle reports, “Kids in the theater had a blast!” Not that the mascots didn’t!

During Kyle’s tenure, the opportunity to elevate Brutus’s brand became apparent. Kyle worked for the Ohio State licensing department under Ann Chasser. His initial projects included two new University logos: Fighting Brutus and THE Ohio State University. The Fighting Brutus was marketable on tee shirts, cups, and other fan gear. THE started out as square stationary logo for President Jenning’s office, then with the number of Ohio State athletes introduced each week on Sunday and Monday Night Football, really took off.  According to Kyle, “THE went viral before viral was a thing.” He says it is “an awesome brand extension that has lasted 30 plus years. Who knew?”

Kyle was the last solo individual in the Modern Era of Brutus (1980’s to present). “There was a lot of balancing to maintain commitments and schoolwork,” Kyle admits. “I eventually changed my Pre-Optometry major as a result of the time requirements.”  In addition to practices, game appearances at all home and away football games, men’s and women’s basketball games, parades, pep rallies, and tailgates (are you tired yet?), Brutus was in growing demand for charity events, fundraisers and telethons, which could account for 15-20 hours a week. In 1988, an election year, “EVERYONE wanted to have Brutus alongside for photo opportunities,” says Kyle, adding, “The Brutus brand was helpful in fundraising. Even during the summer, corporations would fly Brutus in for corporate meetings, then make a donation to the university’s scholarship fund.” Realizing there was so much more they could do with Brutus, Kyle encouraged the creation of a second head and outfit, which more or less materialized with Doug Congrove and Bart Suver in 1990.


Each Brutus puts his or her distinctive mark on their tenure. In line with his personal goal to ensure that crowds laugh, have a good time and leave wanting more, Kyle’s “trademarks” were custom flags and third quarter costumes that poked good-natured fun at visiting teams.

The flag tradition started when Kyle discovered The Flag Lady Flag Store in the Yellow Pages under “Flags.” He called the Wednesday, September 9, 1987, prior to his first game as Brutus.  His goal? “I wanted to walk in to the ‘Shoe with the largest flag in the country. I asked Mary if I could buy one in time for Saturday. She laughed, asking, ‘WHY? Who is this?’ I really could not tell her, so I stopped by the store that afternoon, introduced myself, shared my vision and asked her to keep the secret.” Kyle started off with an order for a 4 by 6 foot Block O flag and three wooden flag poles. He and Mary set a weekly Friday afternoon appointment for the next two years.

Two days later, when Kyle picked up his new Block O flag, Mary introduced him to Earle Bruce’s daughter, who was picking up a new flag for the family, commissioned and designed to highlight her dad’s new wardrobe selection of a Fedora hat and the team’s red shoes (both introduced the prior season at the 1987 Cotton Bowl). Kyle asked if he could fly Earl’s tribute at the game. She agreed.  Taking it a step further, Kyle decided that Brutus needed to up HIS wardrobe selection at halftime as well.  When he returned to the field carrying the Bruce flag, Brutus was bedecked in a Bruce-inspired black suit, red tie and shoes….and a Fedora.  Kyle said it took a while for the player’s sideline to realize what was going on, as the crowd noise behind them was very loud and not coinciding at all with the action on the field. Fans laughed. Players laughed. Coach Bruce did not laugh.
Two weeks later, catching a breath during pre-game warm-ups inside LSU Tiger Stadium, Kyle was startled by a gruff voice behind him that shouted, “I understand you like dressing up!” Realizing it must be Coach Bruce, Kyle feared what would come next. Instead of a chew out, Coach followed with, “Keep it up! That was fun. Let’s get’em, Brutus!”  Class act.

During the team warm-ups in a sweltering 100-degree September afternoon hostile environment in Baton Rouge, Kyle noticed that Coach Bruce, whose team was facing #4 LSU, took the time to walk over and provide encouragement to a member of the extended support team. Kyle speculates that Coach Bruce’s downfall was that he just wanted to coach football, lead his players and coaches (including Urban Meyer) and not have to interface with administration, the press or alumni. Bruce’s last game was Kyle’s first Michigan game as Brutus.  Following the 23-20 Buckeye victory in Ann Arbor, Ohio State fans lifted both Earle and Brutus over their heads, a script ending to one of the most chaotic weeks of administration vs. athletics turmoil on campus, everyone knowing that THE Game was Coach Bruce’s final game.

Kyle and Mary the Flag Lady (Mary Eckert Leavitt) knew they were on to something after the flag debut. Unique game day flags were created for every game long after Kyle graduated. The flags were later sold at charity events for scholarship funds.

For his final game of 1988, Mary really wanted to create THAT FLAG that Kyle inquired about originally, one larger than rivals Iowa and Illinois. Since those schools wouldn’t disclose their flag dimensions, Mary made a 12 by 18 foot Block O flag that would surely dwarf the others, all the time hoping that 6’6” Kyle could carry it on a 24-foot aluminum pole without flying away or tumbling to the ground. Kyle loves to tell the story, “The flag was HUGE, and the forecast called for a very windy game day.  Steve Vehrs and I attempted to get into Ohio Stadium the night before the game to see if I could even pull this off. With the gates locked, I literally wedged my way in through the steel fence, Steve handed me the monster flag with a pole that was forever long.  After a few practice runs, someone yelled down asking what we were doing there. I pointed to the flag and motioned…Really, you have to ask?


The year 1988 was John Cooper’s first year in the head football coach slot, and the last year for basketball’s Gary Williams.  Kyle’s introduction to Coach Cooper was benign in comparison to his first encounter with Earle Bruce. Coach Cooper simply said, “Hello, I’m John Cooper. Glad to meet you.” Kyle remembers Coach Cooper as a good guy who was happy to say hello—often twice—to everyone he met. Kyle recalls Cooper knocking out 5-6 commercials prior to the start of the season. “He was everywhere.”  Also “everywhere,” Basketball Coach Williams saw the recruiting and alumni potential with Brutus, often asking Kyle to join him on speaking engagements and recruiting visits.  “Hi, I am Gary Williams and this is my friend, Brutus. May we come in?”

Aside from athletics, Kyle met his share of political dignitaries in 1988, a presidential election year. Brutus was invited to appear with elected officials and candidates throughout the year stomping and running for office in the swing state of Ohio. Kyle’s favorite memories include Ronald Reagan’s visit to campus weeks before the 1988 election and Vice President and candidate George Bush presenting the game ball at the Spring Football Game in 1988.  “I shook hands with the VP at midfield with cheerleading coach Judy Bunting’s daughter and two Secret Service agents dressed at umpires for the game. The Brutus outfit was quarantined for 24 hours as a security measure and I had someone follow me for the days leading up to the photo op.” Some requests for Brutus were a “real stretch,” according to Kyle.  One of those was when he met Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s Secretary of State at the time, on the Wheeling Bridge connecting Ohio and West Virginia.  Sherrod was sealing a bet with his counterpart prior to the Buckeye vs. Mountaineer game to kick off the 1987 football season.

The day after graduation, Ohio native Kyle packed up his apartment behind Varsity Club and moved to that state up North, of all places.  In Detroit, Kyle joined the globally recognized advertising agency, the J. Walter Thompson Co., for the agency’s premier account, Dearborn’s Ford Motor Company.  Following an “awesome” (Kyle’s word) 29-year career with JWT heading offices in Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Tulsa, Kyle was recruited to join Cox Media Group, where he serves as Strategic Integration Director for its cluster of TV, Radio, Digital and Research teams in Oklahoma—a perfect career path for a Journalism major who graduated with a degree from THE University’s advertising program.


Kyle is a paradox. He describes himself on LinkedIn as The “I Know a Guy” Guy Everyone Knows, but he didn’t tell his parents he was trying out for Brutus. Later, even his then soon-to-be-finance Tammy did not discover he had been a college mascot until they went to an Ohio State alumni game in Columbus. “I introduced her to my friends from college. The next day we all gathered in front of St. John Arena. Everyone had red shirts on, matching shorts. We start walking towards the stadium with the band behind us. Tammy was thinking this was pretty cool, an awesome atmosphere. As we walked closer to the stadium, she asked for her ticket to the game. I laughed, then all at once EVERYONE pushed forward and sprinted down the ramp into Ohio Stadium. The friends she had met the night before were now doing flips and running down the field as 100,000+ yelled and cheered.” Tammy said, “Something you want to tell me?”

Tammy has apparently forgiven Kyle for keeping his Brutus years a secret. They recently celebrated 25 years of marriage. Kyle fondly remembers their wedding cake, which represented their house divided. While Tammy is also an OSU grad, her alma mater is nicknamed the Cowboys and Cowgirls and their mascot is the gun-slinging, mustached Pistol Pete, decked out in chaps, vest, bandana and 10-gallon hat. Although they might be routing for different OSU teams, Kyle and Tammy agree on at least two things in life–their two daughters, both student-athletes of their own. Regan, who graduated with a BSN from Oklahoma City University, was a member of the National Championship NAIA Golf Team. Her sister Bryn, a junior at Missouri State University, competes as a defender for the MSU Bears Women’s Soccer Team, which made its first NCAA appearance in 20 years following their Missouri Valley Conference Championship. Both secretly bleed scarlet and gray and have attended several home games.
I have to admit that Kyle was off the radar when Ray Bourhis and I were researching our book The Autobiography of Brutus Buckeye. The only reference we make to Kyle’s reign is on page 44 where we talk about Brutus doing the soft shoe with Doctors Hospital interns at the Ohio Theatre. We don’t even mention his name! My excuse is the short production deadlines for the book, but I don’t know how I overlooked the eight newspaper photos of Kyle I found recently while researching this blog post. The fun (i.e., embarrassing) thing is that Kyle was actually named in the photo descriptions or articles. Although Brutus was not allowed to speak while in costume by this era, it was publicly allowable for people to know who was under the head.

Given his propensity for entertaining, Kyle admits that one of the hardest parts of being Brutus was to remember not to speak while in persona. Even reporters’ questions had to be answered with hand or body gestures. Thankfully for Kyle, he is no longer under that restriction. That would make his life in broadcast journalism a bit of a challenge!

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