Alumnus: Business Administration, Legal Studies '10
It was close to the end of basketball season and the Towson Tigers were playing at local opponent Morgan State University. Demontray Hawkins was on his game. His intensity was high. His moves were on point. And he dominated the court.
After the game, Mark Forster, then TU's assistant director of sports marketing, approached Demontray, who was still catching his breath after his winning performance. "I have someone that wants to meet you," he said.
"I didn't know what to expect," recalls Hawkins, who graduated with a degree in business administration/legal studies in 2010.
Just a few months later Hawkins found himself with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sign a contract to perform as the Baltimore Ravens' beloved team mascot, Poe.
While Hawkins never anticipated becoming a mascot for a professional sports team, his career in mascoting began as a teenager. Growing up in Deale, Md., a small town south of Annapolis, he attended Southern High School. He says he was never that into sports, but he loved theater and acting. That's how he fell into playing his school's bulldog mascot.
"To be a mascot, you have to have that quirky, left-brain personality," he says. "It just came naturally to me."
When Hawkins came to Towson in fall of 2006, he was ecstatic. He couldn't wait to be a part of the campus atmosphere. But when he attended his first Tiger football game, he was surprised there was no tiger mascot to be seen. So he made some calls and got in touch with Forster.
"To be honest, when I first met him and talked with him, I was hesitant to let him apply," Forster recalls. "Most mascots that I have met have all been extremely outgoing people. Demontray is very soft-spoken (until you get to know him) and a little shy. But at the time we were very desperate for students to become mascots. I gave Demontray a chance and honestly, I think that was one of the best things that I did during my tenure at Towson."
Hawkins went above and beyond the call of duty as the official mascot of Tiger athletics. He wanted to do more than just wave to fans and high-five kids at athletic events. So Doc began making more appearances on campus. He posed for pictures with students in the Union. He schmoozed with donors at fundraising events, and grew to be a personality recognized by everyone at TU. Doc even participated in Baltimore-wide football rallies and events, building a reputation in the greater community. Forster says there was a rise in requests for appearances because of Hawkins' stellar performances.
"At football games back when he first started, I believe in the first two seasons we won a combined three football games," he says. "But Demontray was always there, always cheering, dancing and interacting with students and fans. I remember multiple occasions where parents would walk up to me with their kids and just tell me how amazed they were."
Mike Nitti, a 2012 English graduate, remembers one of the first times he saw Hawkins as Doc at a football game this freshman year. Doc was busting out of his cage—the ritual before every home game.
"Just seeing the amount of energy he had kicking open the cage door and getting the crowd fired up really stood out to me and it sparked my interest in becoming a performer," says Nitti.
Nitti's interest turned into reality and he learned the ropes from Hawkins.
"I learned everything about performing from Demontray. Not just about how to be Doc but how to carry myself as a mascot in general," says Nitti. "He taught me how to get into and stay in character, how to interact with fans, how to properly hydrate and how to take care of the equipment."
Beyond resurrecting Towson's mascot tradition, Hawkins gave Doc the macho, fun-loving and sometimes flirtatious personality he's now known for.
"I wanted to give Doc life," Hawkins says. "You can put a costume on anyone, but it's not the same as putting it on someone who wants to be in it. When that happens, they transform."
For being the face of a two-time Super Bowl championship team, Poe is a pretty laid-back kind of bird, says Hawkins.
"He's just chill," Hawkins says. "He makes everyone happy. He's not aggressive, but he's not soft either. He gives it to you with confidence.... I'll put it this way—he's soft and friendly, but you wouldn't go up against him."
If Poe is one thing, it's busy (even busier than Doc). He does commercials, TV news appearances, pep rallies, charity events and private events.
"Some of my favorite events to do are weddings," says Hawkins. "When the DJ announces the wedding party, Poe will come out at the end and it's so unexpected for the wedding guests. They love it. Then you get out there and dance. Poe can be classy."
Then there's football season at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Games are the big hoorah. It doesn't get any bigger than that," Hawkins says. "Poe leads the team out on the field and gets the crowd pumped."
But games aren't just a fun rush, they're a lot of hard work as well, he says.
"Physically it can be challenging. Inside the suit, it can get up to 20 degrees warmer than it is outside," he says. "And you have to constantly be aware of what's going on around you. But the fans make the job easier with their energy and excitement. Because of their support, Poe will always be loved."
From 9 to 5, Hawkins is a senior compliance specialist for the human resources department at T. Rowe Price. He says he plans to attend law school and specialize in employment law. While working full-time and studying for the LSAT takes a lot of time, he doesn't plan to quit moonlighting as one of Baltimore's most beloved birds.
"I've been doing it for six years now, and I plan on doing it as long as I'm able," he says. "I enjoy making people feel good about themselves and making them smile. It's a job, but it's a hobby. It's fun—and it's an adrenaline rush."
The job also has become second nature in many ways, he adds.
"During away games when I'm at home, when [the team] scores, I jump up and flap my wings," he says. "It's definitely a natural reaction."