West Virginia University welcomed a new Mountaineer mascot to the fold Friday during the official "passing of the rifle" ceremony.
The 65th Mountaineer is senior accounting major Trevor Kiess. Tall, with an easy smile and impressive beard, being the Mountaineer has been a lifelong dream for the Elkins native.
"It’s been a dream of mine for a really, really long time," he said. "The Mountaineer means so much to the state of West Virginia and that’s what makes it so unique."
Kiess said he first realized he had a shot at becoming the iconic Mountaineer after a visit to his high school by then-Mountaineer Jonathan Kimble. Kimble held the position from 2012-14.
"I realized he wasn't that much different than I am," Kiess recalled. "He's from Franklin, West Virginia and I'm from Elkins, and we're a lot alike in several different ways. So, I realized, hey, if I really work hard, I can do that too."
Kiess has big plans when it comes to putting his own spin on the Mountaineer during the next year, including hopefully visiting all 55 West Virginia counties.
"For myself personally, you know, I want to be a Mountaineer everybody in the state of West Virginia can be proud of," he said.
Gloomy skies outside couldn’t dampen the spirits of dozens of well-wishers who gathered inside the Erickson Alumni Center Friday to officially welcome the newest mascot. Kiess was named the mascot during the February 24 WVU-Iowa State men’s basketball game, but the "passing of the rifle" tradition marks the official start of his tenure.
During an emotional speech, Kiess thanked his parents for supporting him and joked half the town of Elkins was in the room. He said as a kid from West Virginia who has long admired the Mountaineer, "it doesn't get any better than this." Kiess takes over the iconic rifle and fringe-adorned buckskins from two-term Mountaineer Troy Clemons.
In his last appearance as the Mountaineer, Clemons reflected on his time as the mascot.
"There’s just so many people to be grateful for and such a great family here at the university, I’ve been very, very fortunate to be apart of," Clemons said.
A handful of former mountaineers were onsite to explain the more than 90-year history of the Mountaineer and talk about the mascot’s importance to not just WVU, but the state. They noted the Mountaineer is unique because unlike other college mascots, WVU's is not a cartoon character, but a living, breathing person who interacts with fans. They also shared some words of wisdom with Kiess and his family -- this next year will be a wild ride, but one not likely to be forgotten.