When it comes to the NFL, athletes attract most of the attention — and rightfully so. But there’s one often-overlooked squad member that deserves a bit more recognition.
Team mascots serve as a symbol of pride for sports teams. They work to boost fan and player morale and enhance community engagement. These wild, wacky good luck charms come in all shapes and sizes. But in pro football, they’ve only recently begun gaining popularity.
Here are five of my personal favorite NFL mascots you probably never knew existed.
1) T-Rac — Tennessee Titans
While a raccoon might not be the first animal that comes to mind when you think of Tennessee, they are, in fact, the state animal.
T-Rac, the Tennessee Titans mascot, was born in 1999 and made his debut during the Titans’ inaugural season opener at Nissan Stadium. Before that, the franchise was named the Oilers and featured an oil field wildcatter named The Roughneck as its mascot.
Fortunately, the team’s new mammal mascot has become one of the most favored creatures across the NFL.
Along with having a healthy social media following, T-Rac won the Cartoon Network “Most Awesome Mascot” award at the 2011 Hall of Games. Fellow mascots up for the award included Phillie Phanatic from the Philadelphia Phillies, the Phoenix Suns’ Gorilla, Bango of the Milwaukee Bucks.
This loveable ‘coon is quite the acrobat as well. T-Rac occasionally makes an entrance in grand flying fashion by zip-lining from the top of Nissan Stadium. In turn, the Titans’ home remains one of the most thrilling, loudest stadiums in pro football.
2) Who Dey — Cincinnati Bengals
Much like the three other Big Cat teams in the NFL, the Cincinnati Bengals opted for a fuzzy feline as its mascot. More specifically, they chose a Bengal Tiger.
Where the team really stands out, though, is in the mascot’s name. And when I say name, I mean that it’s more of a question, really.
If you’re not already familiar with the Bengals’ traditional Who Dey chant, you will be after Super Bowl 56.
The phrase originated in 1981 when the Bengals earned their stripes during their first Super Bowl run. Now, the calling card serves as a bold rally cry meant to intimidate opponents.
The chant begins with a lofty “Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals?”
Then, fans reply by shouting, “nobody”.
This chorus is so engrained in Bengals culture that they ultimately named their mascot after it. Keep an eye out for Who Dey this Sunday when he’s prowling near the end zone of SoFi Stadium.
3) Rampage — Los Angeles Rams
The newest and most loved Los Angeles Rams mascot, Rampage, made his debut in 2010. Known at the time as the St. Louis Rams, the team set out with the goal of breathing life into a dynamic, loveable mascot persona that fans could come to call their own. To do so, they held an online mascot-naming contest. Over 1,000 new options were submitted by fans, but only one stood out as the most sheepish.
Thus, Rampage was born.
The friendly, fuzzy ram made his debut at the St. Louis Zoo. Later that year, he visited Busch Stadium to throw the ceremonial first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.
Since then, Rampage has attended three Pro Bowls. This Sunday will mark his second Super Bowl appearance.
4) KC Wolf — Kansas City Chiefs
Perhaps the most well-known of all NFL mascots, KC Wolf became an official member of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989. The wolf replaced the team’s previous (less politically proper) mascot, Warpaint.
KC’s canine lineage can be traced back to Chiefs’ home games, which feature an especially vocal section of the fanbase known as the Wolfpack.
His hilarious antics and wild dancing quickly made him the friendliest wolf in the NFL. In 2006, KC became the first of three NFL mascots to be welcomed into the Mascot Hall of Fame.
This year will mark the first Super Bowl since 2019 that he hasn’t made an appearance.
5) Swoop — Philadelphia Eagles
And Swoop, here it is, folks — the fifth and final mascot to make this coveted list.
When it comes to teams of the winged variety, this Philadelphia Eagles mascot is flying high. Swoop is a fun-loving, patriotic bird with oversized shoes and a personality to match.
His biography humorously notes a diet consisting of “smaller birds such as Cardinals, Falcons, Ravens, and Seahawks; and of course cheesesteaks and soft pretzels.”
Swoop is often referred to as one of the most eager NFL mascots and is known for his wild stadium stunts. He’s also made film cameos in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective as well as an NFL Shop commercial.
Philly’s feathered friend was even nominated for this year’s Cartoon Network Most Awesome Mascot award. Fans can offer their two feathers on the upcoming title by voting on one of the four nominees between now and Thursday, Feb. 17.