Haley Duhon, 17, a Bridge City High School Senior, knew as a freshman  there were “bigger” and much “redder” things in her future. Duhon is often seen at football games and other events and loved by many.

Duhon is the Bridge City school mascot, Big Red.

Duhon started out in the band playing the flute. She also was a member of the color guard. But, she wanted to move on to bigger things and tried out to be the mascot.

“I’ve always wanted to do it and once I was no longer in the band, I decided to try out,” she said.

Tryouts consisted of a skit she made up and knowing the hand and feet movements the cheerleaders do to the school song. Once she was chosen as the mascot, then she had to learn how to work in the costume.

Each move is more exaggerated than a person without the costume such as the hands going higher, she said.

Since Texas temperatures can reach scorching heights in August when football season starts, the inside of Big Red is “very, very hot.” Duhon wears shorts and a T-shirt. But, she is covered from head to toe with the costume. Cooler temperatures offer some relief from the heat, but during the playoff game in Channelview, Duhon was cold. She still had to wear shorts under the costume and the cold winds seemed to go straight through, she said.

After a long day and she begins to get tired, the head of Big Red seems to grow increasingly heavy.

Being Big Red can have dangers as well. Duhon was standing on the sidelines watching the game. Suddenly, a football player came charging towards her. She was unable to move and froze as the action moved toward her. However, the player seeing he was about to hit Big Red successfully swerved to miss her.

“I was nearly tackled,” Duhon said.

But, no matter all the problems with being Big Red, she absolutely loves it.

“It’s really awesome,” she said.

Her favorite memory is that of an adoring fan at a football game. During the game, as Duhon approached the stands, as she often does,  a young boy would often come down to shake hands or get a hug. Throughout the game he would yell to her, “Hey Big Red! .” He also yelled, “I love you! “

Some of the children are afraid of Big Red, but others can’t wait to shake her hands or have their picture taken with her. Everyone from little girls in cheerleader outfits to little boys with dreams of becoming a football player know who Big Red is at the games. Even adults are seen taking pictures with their favorite mascot.

When the band starts and the cheerleaders begin to dance, Big Red, with pom-poms in hand, is always ready to join in and cheer the Cardinals on to another victory.

A recent trip to a gym in Nederland is also a fond memory. Duhon along with other area mascots and cheerleaders met with a group of special needs teens. Together they laughed and cheered. Although, some were afraid until she took off the head of the costume. Then, it was all smiles.

“It was awesome,” she said.

Football season is over, but fans will still get a glimpse of Big Red. She will make appearances at various events.

Her job as a mascot will “probably” end with high school. After graduation, Duhon has plans to attend the University of Texas to be a biology/pre-med major with hopes to become a doctor.

But, for now, Duhon will answer the calls by the fans for Big Red. “Let’s go Big Red! Let’s go! “

Haley Duhon, also known as Big Red, shakes the hands of a Bridge City Cardinal fan during a recent football game. RECORD PHOTO: Debby Schamber