I'm writing this just over an hour after I stepped off Jim Boeheim Court for the last time as a student at Syracuse University. I don't think I've ever been this emotional, not because it was my last basketball game as Otto, not because my family made the three and a half hour drive to see my finale, and not because I spend the night followed around by a Daily Orange crew documenting Otto's day. I'm so emotional because I'm getting that much closer to saying goodbye to my team.
I didn't come to Syracuse with the intention of being a mascot, being that guy at games or even trying to be anything else than someone who could take advantage of what Syracuse has to offer. Over the last four years, I have been part of a team that through creativity, boundless energy, orange passion, and a ton of sweat has brought Otto the Orange to life. I have seen teammates come and go, and there's no denying that our little Orange Tree is a unique bond that will unite across time and distance.
But it's nothing like hanging out with these guys before a game. It's nothing like mutually hating a workout at 6am on a Tuesday morning. It's nothing like nervously watching a teammate perform a skit for Mascot Nationals (yes, an actual thing) and mobbing them upon completion. There's something more to this team than any other group on campus.
Part of it is the secrecy. We don't just go around prancing our team alliances and usually have made up back stories on how we all met. Part of it is that we do spend at least 6 hours a week together if there's one game, let alone a week that is bookended by basketball and has four appearances in between. But a large part of it is knowing we all share a selflessness that comes along with the job. If you've been following along to these posts to date, I hope you understand that the goal is not to tout "Andy Pregler, the Otto." It's to tout a program that year in and year out is made up of kids who have all kinds of dreams, brings some of these to life and happens to have a kid who's been on Keeley's good side for a bit.
The students who have brought Otto the Orange to life are some of the most talented, intelligent, creative and self-aware students that pass through the Dome doors. Each one has poured their heart and soul into a fuzzy orange ball who brings so much more joy to the world than any one individual could for no other reason than what Syracuse means to so many different people. These students not only realize this, but are willing to do so in anonymity for up to four years (or longer in the case of many alums) just because it betters the community at large.
That is why I'm so emotional tonight. I've realized I'm going to be saying goodbye to a group of these amazing students who have become my closest friends in just five weeks (OMG it's already here). I'm going to miss them dearly, but every time I see a picture of our orange buddy, I'll still smile and hope Otto isn't too sweaty today.
Thank you to all of you who made Otto so special. Thank you to all of you who have made Syracuse University so special. G'ORANGE!