by Max Marbut
With the start of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2010 schedule only two weeks and a day away, the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce invited Curtis Dvorak, the man behind (or rather inside) team mascot Jaxson De Ville, to speak at the council’s meeting Friday.
Dvorak began his career as a sports mascot while in college at Virginia Tech, suiting up for football, basketball and baseball as “The Hokie Bird.” He was motivated to try out for the job by a desire to avoid standing in line.
“I was tired of camping out for football tickets,” said Dvorak. “I figured if I was the mascot, I’d get to be on the sidelines.”
He tried out during his junior year and finished second in the competition. In his senior year, Dvorak was chosen for the job. That’s when he noticed while watching ESPN that being the mascot for a professional team might be his calling.
“I remember thinking I was funnier than those guys and it had to be a full-time gig,” said Dvorak.
After trying out for the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team (and finishing second), he sent an audition tape to the Jaguars, who were looking for a mascot after their inaugural season went by without a signature sideline entertainer.
Dvorak tried out in Jacksonville with 50 other candidates on July 1, 1996, and took on the persona of Jaxson De Ville exactly a month later.
“I brought a different blend of entertainment,” said Dvorak. “I didn’t think anything of it when the other coach would yell at me.”
He also introduced stunts like riding a zip-line from the top of the scoreboard to the 50-yard line and skydiving into the stadium as part of the pregame show.
De Ville’s signature “close to crossing the line” antics, said Dvorak, eventually attracted the attention of the other teams. The subject of mascot conduct even made the agenda for the 2000 NFL owners meeting.
“Along with their discussions of revenue sharing and TV deals, one of the topics was how to stop the mascots (from being too disruptive),” said Dvorak. “They showed a 10-minute video and nine and a half minutes were my highlights. It made my parents so proud.”
One of the things he most enjoys now is being a part of the Team Teal effort, which accounts for a portion of the 400 public appearances Jaxson De Ville is scheduled to make in the next year. Dvorak said the ticket sales effort is an opportunity to put rumors to rest and show the NFL that Jacksonville is serious about the home team.
“I’m tired of hearing the team might move and that Jacksonville doesn’t deserve the Jaguars,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the fans step up. We’ve already set a team record for season tickets sold in a season and when we sell out the remaining 4,300 tickets, we’ll set an NFL record.”
As the Jaguars’ first and only mascot entertainer, the 36-year old Dvorak is witnessing the Jaguars’ development of a base of lifetime fans.
“I meet kids who are in their early 20s who tell me I (Jaxson) was at their elementary school. Some of the cheerleaders tell me I was at their kindergarten,” said Dvorak.
He also said there is no one in the Jaguars organization who is more appreciative of the fans then he is.
“I make my living entertaining people out in the community. This city has given me everything I have. I even married a former member of the Roar.”
The Downtown Council meets for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. the first and third Friday of each month at Currents Riverfront Bistro in the Aetna Building. For more information, visit www.downtowncouncil.com.
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