Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
It does my heart good to see such energy and spirit. Let’s not bury all this enthusiasm tomorrow. Keep it. Cherish it.
Want to learn more about the evolution of the Billy Bluejay logo and costume over the past 80 years? Read the definitive history of Creighton’s mascot.
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By Micah Mertes
Billy Bluejay is Creighton’s plucky spirit made flesh, er … feather. And for the last 60 years, student-athletes have been breathing life into the bird — at ball games and Creighton events, along the Mall and throughout the halls of everyday campus life.
Depending on the year, sometimes multiple students have shared the role of Billy at the same time. (For more than a decade, most of the student mascots have been awarded a scholarship endowed by the grandson of the Creighton alumnus who created Billy Bluejay in 1941.)
We caught up with a few alumni to talk about how being Billy colored their Creighton experience and even, in at least one case, defined the rest of their lives.
Spring of ’02 at the Omaha Civic Auditorium. Creighton men’s basketball game. Steven Finley, BFA’02, dressed like Billy Bluejay dressed like Michael Jackson, rappelling from the Civic ceiling down to the middle of the court to join the dance team for a “Thriller”-themed halftime routine.
Billy Bluejay flew. (Sort of.)
To prepare for the big moment, Finley trained with the Army ROTC. To make sure he could hold on to the rope while wearing the costume, he asked the theater department to make him leather gloves big enough to fit over Billy’s feathered fingers (one of the gloves also worked for his Michael Jackson routine).
Other stunts from Finley’s time as the bird:
Dressing up like a cowboy and lassoing his two friends (who were wearing a cow suit).
Sledding down the arena steps on a toboggan. One great thing about the Billy suit — its padding allowed you to take a lot of hits.
“I got away with so much as Billy,” Finley says now.
Crystal Baker Fitch, BS’02, a member of Creighton’s dance team at the time, was there for all of Finley’s stunts. “He took Billy to another level,” she says. “He was just fantastic. He was one of the Billies who grew the fans’ expectations of what the mascot could be.”
One amusing thing to note about Finley rappelling from the Civic ceiling — “Those skills didn’t go unused after college,” he says.
After graduation, Finley spent the next eight years working for a theatrical lighting company. One of his primary roles in that time was touring the U.S. with Dave Matthews Band. At every concert, Finley would rappel from the truss to focus the lights. No bird suit required.
One bold bird
There are other tales of Billy rappelling from the Civic ceiling — one confirmed by an Omaha World-Herald photo and caption. “(On Dec. 1, 1979,) mascot Billy Bluejay made his entrance by sliding down a rope from the ceiling.”
It’s a lot of sweat and a lot of hard work, but one thing I will miss about Creighton is being the bird.
— Bruce Watley, BSBA'90, former Billy Bluejay, in a 1990 interview with the Creightonian.
Bruce as Billy in 1990 …
It started as a joke.
Freshman year, David Roustio, BSBA'12, was seeing the posters all over campus — “Want to be Billy Bluejay?” His friends said he should try out. That it would be funny.
Even funnier than trying out for Billy Bluejay as a joke was getting the job of Billy Bluejay as a joke. There were two Bluejay suits at the time, and Roustio shared the role with another student. But even then, playing the bird ended up being a lot more time commitment than he’d bargained for.
Yet being Billy had an unexpected perk. It’s how he met his future wife — Bailey Roustio, BS’12, who was on the dance team.
“It was a true beauty and the beast story,” David says now. Or beauty and the bird, at least.
For David and Bailey, dating mostly meant weekend athletic events and long bus rides. An unusual courting ritual maybe, but a very Creighton love story.
Had it not been for his girlfriend being on the dance team, David doubts he would have stayed on as Billy all four years of school. Without Billy, no Bailey. Without Bailey, no Billy.
“It was a joke that panned out, I guess,” he says. “Both for me and for Creighton.”
I enjoy this job because I can get away with anything. At all home games, I try to act as zany as possible.
— Anonymous student who played Billy in 1962, quoted in the Creightonian
Bird and groom
Jenny Muir, BA’06, became Billy because of her mom.
The summer before her freshman year, Jenny and her mother visited Creighton. At some point, her mom went off on her own, looking to find Jenny a campus job.
What did her daughter have experience in?
Well, she’d played Lola Bunny — Bugs Bunny’s girlfriend — at Six Flags since she was 15. Were there any campus jobs where that kind of experience might come in handy?
“Before I knew it,” Jenny says now, “my mother was introducing me to Creighton’s director of marketing, and I was agreeing to be Billy Bluejay for what ended up being the next four years.”
In any case, she had a great time as the bird. Being Billy just defined so much of her Creighton experience.
“My freshman roommate, bless her heart, she had to live with a bird suit in our dorm room until our resident hall advisor found a closet for me to store it in,” Jenny says. “To this day, there are still a lot of people who still just call me ‘The Bird.’”
At her 2012 wedding in St. Louis, Jenny’s friends and family surprised her with a guest appearance by Billy, wearing the same costume she’d worn as a student.
For her wedding photos, Billy let her borrow his feet.
When the team isn’t doing very well, Billy acts sad because I am sad. However, a Bluejay’s spirit can never be destroyed.
— Anonymous student who played Billy in 1988, quoted in the Creightonian
Jenny Muir, David Roustio and Steven Finley talk more about the perks and peeves of being a Bluejay. As a reminder, while at Creighton, each of them wore this version of the suit …
What are the rules of being Billy?
Steven: “Don’t talk to people while the costume is on unless it’s out of the public eye. You need to maintain the reality of the illusion for the kids. They don’t want a stuffed bird talking to them.
Jenny: “For me, Billy was always about the kids. I was there to entertain them and win them over. My college roommate, who was also on the dance team and later my maid of honor, she was from Omaha, and she talked about how she grew up watching Creighton games and loving Billy. Billy meant a lot to her as a kid. Who would have thought she’d one day be roommates with Billy!”
What’s something only the student mascot knows?
Steven: “You’d have to carry a gargantuan bag around with you everywhere.”
David: “Just a big ol’ black bag full of Billy’s suit, everything from his shoes to his head. You’d have to be fairly secretive about the suit.”
Steven: “People might ask you, ‘What’s in the bag?’ I’d say, ‘Uhhhh, stuff for theater.’”
What stinks about being Billy?
David: “You sweat buckets. You got drenched in that thing. I just wore shorts and an undershirt underneath the suit. Some student mascots wore swimming trunks.”
Jenny: “I probably never put on the freshman 15 because I sweat it all out in that suit.”
David: “At the end of the night, you would go back to the Billy closet and hang up the suit and just turn on the fan. It would take days for the suit to dry out.”
Jenny: “But there were days when you would have to do back-to-back events as Billy, so you didn’t always have a choice.”
David: “How do I put this … you just had to get used to putting on a wet Billy outfit. It wasn’t too glamorous.”
Jenny: “I was a big fan of using Lysol to spray out the smell.”
What’s great about being Billy?
David: “I’m a quiet person. But as Billy, I got to go out there and try to brighten the day of thousands of people.”
Steven: “I truly loved it. If someone asked me to put on that costume today, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
Jenny: “It’s a sense of pride, you know? So many people have a love for Creighton, and Billy embodies that love. For me, it was just so cool to be a part of that.”
Have stories or photos (or video) of Billy Bluejay over the years? Share them with firstname.lastname@example.org, and we might feature them in a follow-up article.
See how the Billy mascot costume has evolved over the past 60 years.
See how the bird influenced Creighton fashion over the past several decades.