The best college football mascots are live mascots. Change my mind. From the adorable Uga the bulldog that roams the sidelines on University of Georgia game days to Bevo the longhorn who quite literally won’t back down to anyone for the University of Texas, each one is beloved to their school.
The Southeastern Conference features a number of them. Uga is by far the GOAT. LSU’s Mike the Tiger is the badass of the bunch. Tennessee’s Smokey the bluetick coonhound might be the cutest. And Texas A&M University’s Reveille is the princess.
Steal one of these mascots, and you’ve got yourself a full-blown rivalry war. That’s exactly what happened in 1993 when a University of Texas student swiped Reveille from its handler right out of his backyard.
First, though, some background on Reveille. She’s a Rough Collie, and there have been nine of them since 1931, when the first Reveille assumed mascot duties (though the first pure bred wasn’t until Reveille III).
According to The Eagle, her name stems from an incident in which a group of cadets hit a small black-and-white dog heading back from Navasota. When a bugler played “Reveille” the next day, she started barking and the name was born.
She is the highest ranking member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and is the only cadet to bear five silver diamonds, hence why she’s college football’s princess of mascots and the First Lady of Aggieland. Reveille is so cherished in the hearts of Aggies that each one is buried in a special cemetery in the north end outside Kyle Field.
How Was Texas A&M’s Mascot Kidnapped?
The dognapping story goes as follows: Neil Andrew Sheffield, an architectural engineering major at the University of Texas, hatched a plan to abduct the rival school’s mascot, Reveille VI.
He was inspired upon reading a Dallas Morning News article that treated Reveille like a god. It went on to say Texas A&M was the only school in the Southwest Conference to not have their mascot stolen. A light bulb went off in Sheffield’s head. He had to be the one to steal her for the first time.
“They thought they were God’s gift to man. It was like robbing Fort Knox,” Sheffield told the Daily Texan.
Sheffield made some calls. A friend of his, Kevin Kwast, hooked him up with another UT student also looking to rob the school of its beloved canine. That student was Paul Murray, and he researched where the Texas A&M mascot lived and how she was taken care.
The two paired up and headed to the Dallas home of Reveille’s handler — mascot corporal and TAMU student Jim Lively. Sheffield and Murray knew Lively and his pooch would be there ahead of Texas A&M’s football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 1994 Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas.
When Reveille was let outside in the backyard one morning, the two thieves snatched her up. A family member went to let her back in, but she never returned.
The thieves called themselves the “Rustlers” and wrote to the Austin-American Statesman demanding a worded-ransom from Texas A&M announcing their mascot had been stolen and publicly saying UT was the superior school.
Lively and other TAMU cadets spent a few days searching for the 4-month-old pup before notifying school officials on Dec. 29.
Whether out of embarrassment or uncertainty, Texas A&M maintained for a week that the mascot had not been stolen. Even Lively originally said the dognappers took the wrong dog. Eventually, the school announced it would press charges against the perpetrator if the pooch wasn’t returned. Police from College Station, Bryan and Austin were all on high alert.
Because the dog was valued at $750, the act was classified as a third-degree felony. That meant Sheffield could face 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Reveille turned up safely tied to a sign post near Lake Travis outside of Austin on Dec. 31 after local police received a tip.
Sheffield, who went by the pseudonym “Bob” at the time, told UT student newspaper Daily Texan reporter Phil Van der Slice the scoop. Van der Slice was a Longhorns student at the time and faced pressure and potential expulsion from the University of Texas dean of students.
“Being the young reporter that I was, I couldn’t reveal my sources,” Van der Slice told the Daily Texan.
Reveille’s abduction was a massive ordeal among the maroon and white in College Station. The dog is so near and dear to Aggies that freshman Corps of Cadets members aren’t even allowed to call her a dog, instead referring to her as “Miss Reveille,” according to the Dallas Morning News.
Personally, I’m not in favor of stealing live mascots. I know it was all meant in jest, but I can’t even fathom what I would do to someone who stole my dog.
Maybe the official mascot of Texas A&M deserved this. After all, Texas A&M students have a long history of nabbing mascots, including taking Bevo from the state hog farm in 1963. The “Branding Bunch” also stole Bevo in 1917 and branded the longhorn with a 13-0 marking after Texas A&M’s football team beat UT by that score in 1915.
Mascot stealing isn’t a dead tradition. In fact, it’s still alive and well. It’s also potentially dangerous for the animal.
In 2018, one of the Air Force Academy’s falcon mascots was stolen by West Point cadets and returned with bloodied wings.
Considering there are so many better and more creative ways to own your rivals, how about we resort to other pranks and leave the mascots alone?
This article was originally published July 15, 2019.