Jamie Ballentine, '06
Originally published August 2006
When looking back on his career at Carolina, Jamie Ballentine (alias Cocky), is quick to note, “There’s not a lot of Jamie here – there’s a whole lot of Cocky.”
For four years, Jamie lived two lives, as both a college student and mascot of a Division I university: “the life of a celebrity and the life of myself,” as he put it when we spent some time with him on the Horseshoe the day after his August graduation.
It’s clear to those who spend time with Jamie that being Cocky runs deep within his heart and soul. It’s a significant part of his life.
When prompted for his most treasured moment as an undergraduate, he asks, “college-wise or Cocky-wise?”
Life as a Mascot
Jamie has stories that others would love to have experienced, such as the first time he, as Cocky, hit a half-court shot at a Gamecock basketball game on New Year’s Eve in 2004. He also tells of the time he surprised President Sorensen at his doorstep first thing in the morning, dressed in full mascot gear.
“I woke him up early in the morning when I was preparing for a photo shoot on the Horseshoe – I just kept ringing the doorbell,” Jamie says. “Of course, it didn’t bother him at all – he didn’t mind a bit. In fact, he has always been so supportive of my career. He told me he would write letters of recommendation on my behalf when I was ready to go pro. He’s a great guy.”
Ever since the whispers and pointing turned to confirmation that Jamie Ballentine is, indeed, the guy inside the furry suit (which, by the way, adds 40 degrees of heat), he has become a local celebrity, famed for his Gamecock spirit and for bringing a national championship home to South Carolina.
“When I won the 2003 Capital One Mascot of the Year as Cocky, it was exciting. First of all, I was watching the announcement as myself, not Cocky, so that was neat, but what made it all the better is that Georgia was playing in that bowl game, and they got to see me beat Hairy Dawg on the big screen there at the stadium. Plus, I won $20,000 for USC – it was a great moment.”
For the Love of the Game
On the Columbia Blowfish, for which Jamie serves as mascot coordinator, he says Gamecock country has embraced the youth movement, coming out in support of area college-level players.
“It’s good to have baseball back in Columbia. There are four Gamecocks over there [Adam Crisp, Andrew Crisp, DeAngelo Mack and Sean Wideberg], and the team is leading the Coastal Plain League in attendance, which shows that the local fans are excited to have baseball back since the Capital City Bombers left. It has really caught on!”
When asked if the team has any connection to the renowned band of Carolina alumni helmed by Darius Rucker, he says, “No, but due to the team residing in Columbia, the Blowfish wanted to recognize the band for its connection to the city, so they asked Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, drummer of Hootie and the Blowfish, to throw out the first pitch at the inaugural game.”
That’s not the only time Jamie has run into this fellow local personality.
“Just recently, I was at the Columbia airport, and I again spotted Soni of Hootie and the Blowfish,” he says. “Next thing I know, I see Coach Odom. Soni ran right up to Coach, and the two started talking. It was a really cool thing to see.”
Ready to Go Pro
Of course, because Jamie is a local star in his own right, he soon had his own chat with the Gamecocks basketball coach, which could prove helpful to Jamie’s career, as he aspires to be a full-time NBA mascot within five years.
“I tried out for the Chicago Bears, and they told me I was one of the most talented performers they’d ever seen, but in the NFL, they look for professional office experience in the league before allowing a candidate to take on a full-time mascot position.”
Which is not to say Jamie doesn’t have other options…
“Right now, I have several offers on the table, three in South Carolina and three out of state. I’m very fortunate and very blessed to have options,” he says, “but I have to hurt five people’s feelings.”
In his career aspirations, he says he doesn’t plan on stints as a free agent.
“I’m looking to build a relationship with a team, to represent it like I did at Carolina. I would like to be a mascot for as long as my body can take it physically, and then I’d like to settle into a marketing position with the same team. I’m a family man, not only personally, but also with my coworkers, so I would like to be able to stay with one team as long as possible.”
An Affinity for Carolina
When asked what he believes makes the Carolina family so strong, Jamie says, “We have a love for our school that no one else in the country can understand. The alumni base is very solid. We’re very proud of ourselves, though we’ve never won a national championship in a major sport. We have an original mascot, the Gamecock. At Carolina, you can make every piece of the university your own.”
As for the official ring of the university, which is available exclusively through the Carolina Alumni Association in conjunction with Balfour, Jamie has a story for that, too.
“When I first came to school here, I always wanted to deck out my ring with a Gamecock on the side and add a stone, but the more I thought about it, it became clear that not too many schools have the same, classic ring. It is a symbol of bonding within the Carolina community. When you see others with the same ring, it really does forge a connection and spark conversation. As an alumnus, that’s what it’s all about – connecting with other Gamecocks, no matter where you are.”
Taking the Big Step
Jamie says, when all is said and done, his proudest moment took place on the same stage as so many other proud Carolina graduates.
“Graduating is definitely up there in terms of personal accomplishments. Just crossing that stage and realizing that all four years have paid off, that was really something. Getting my degree, there was nothing like it.”
So for Cocky and “everyday” Gamecocks alike, becoming an alumnus is the ultimate source of Gamecock pride.
“The Alumni Association has kept me posted on events that have gone on at the university, and it makes the bond among students, graduates and anyone involved with Carolina even stronger. I bleed garnet and black. I will always be involved with the university. I love it here.”
Note from the Carolina Alumni Association: Jamie Ballentine has moved to New Mexico to work as a mascot for a sports team that, due to the anonymity of his work, we cannot name.