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Elias Cox a crowd-pleaser at UW-Platteville
Pioneer Pete
Pioneer Pete is a big man on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus. Fennimores Elias Cox fills his shoes. - photo by UW-Platteville photo

The next time you are at the big game, keep an eye on the rambunctious mascot before you. It just might be someone you know.

Elias Cox, a 19-year-old Fennimore native, can be found delighting audiences during University of Wisconsin-Platteville athletic events as “Pioneer Pete.”

Cox entertained Fennimore crowds for three years as Fennimore High School’s Golden Eagle.

“I didn’t go out my freshman year,” Cox recalls. “I was afraid it was going to be more of a cheerleader.

“My sophomore year I went out, and did that all through high school. I loved being Fennimore’s mascot.”

Prior to graduating from Fennimore High School in 2012, Cox named Fennimore’s mascot “Screech.” His work as Screech was well received by his peers.

“They were pretty supportive,” Cox said. “They always gave me crap about being the mascot, but they thought it was cool.

“They were really supportive of me going to Platteville and being the mascot.”

Last October, UW-Platteville unveiled Pioneer Pete, giving the university an official mascot for the first time in at least two decades. The mascot replaced the curved “UWP” that the athletic department had used.

Nearly 5,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni participated in a 2011 survey, in which a Pioneer and miner both scored in 90 percent favorable rank in almost every question. Two other finalists, a dog and horse, both scored below 30 percent.

The UW-Platteville Image Committee, with 14 females and 12 males representing 14 different constituencies, worked with Torch Creative Inc. to design “Pioneer Pete,” which features a determined character with a blue helmet and pick axe, dressed in an orange shirt and blue pants.

Cox was asked to try out for the role of Pioneer Pete last September.

“I was pretty stoked,” he said of the opportunity. “I was excited about trying out. I love being a mascot so much.
“I got nervous, but that was pretty much because I was just excited.”

Cox and two additional students were chosen to play the role of Pioneer Pete. He utilized his previous experience to show the newcomers the ropes.

“You really have to picture yourself as the mascot and character yourself,” he said. “You can’t be afraid to be goofy and you really have to enjoy it.

“You can’t just mascot for a job.”

Cox appeared at UW-Platteville men’s and women’s basketball games earlier this year, as well as wrestling meets.

Don’t let the catchy name fool you. It’s not easy being Pioneer Pete.

“Talking is against the rules,  Cox said. “It gets really hot, really tiring and you can’t be claustrophobic.”

The Pioneer Pete costume weighs approximately 50 pounds, Cox estimates. But that doesn’t stop him from going all out for his fans.

“I like to do the worm, run around, jump up and down and pump up the crowd,” he said. “I am really good at miming. That is what you have to do because you can’t talk.”

How did Cox learn the tricks of the mascot trade?

“Youtube, pretty much, and I just made it up myself,” he said. “I always was like a class clown and a different kid, and I kind of picked it up quickly.

“I was shy at first and really got the hang of it.”

Cox has earned rave reviews for his work from the UW-Platteville community.

“Elias has been a perfect fit as Pioneer Pete,” said Johanna Belken, assistant director of University Information and Communications. “He does a great job of bringing him to life.”

To stay in tip-top Pioneer Pete shape, Cox exercises as often as he can. With a little hard work, he would like to add back-flips to his repertoire.

“All of the students we have selected to work as Pioneer Pete do an excellent job,” said Sara Whitaker, operations program associate. “Everywhere that Pioneer Pete goes, he is the center of attention.”

Cox, an Elementary Education major, would enjoy nothing more than to return to his alma mater.

“I would love to go back to Fennimore and work as a teacher,” he said. I love Fennimore so much.

“That is my dream.”

If given the opportunity, Cox would not hesitate to share his mascot knowledge with the future Screeches and Pioneer Petes of the world.

“I would like start that up,” he said. “I would even ask if I could be their coach, or get that going.

“Screech is a great symbol for Fennimore. I want that to be a Fennimore mascot.”

No matter where his future may take him, Cox will not soon forget his past.

“You never know where you are going to end up,” he said. “I didn’t know I would branch out into Platteville.

“I love Platteville. I really enjoy it, but I am really happy where I came from.”