NMU’s mascot, Wildcat Willy, has many lives. Since a real, live bobcat on campus in the 60s was not a success, Willy has remained two-dimensional but has experienced a number of surprising looks.
One of the first records of Willy is a history written by a former wildcat in the winter edition of Horizons, the alumni magazine at NMU. The article talks about what it was like for 1989 graduate Jay McQuillan to be Willy during hockey games. McQuillan was instrumental in promoting Willy’s image on campus, including changing the name from “Willie” to “Willy” and making the mascot fully clothed. The pictures on the internet version of the article aren’t great, but it’s clear that Willy’s head back then was mostly mouth.
Another example of Willy is this homecoming picture from 1990. He looks much more aggressive than he is now. It’s also interesting that The North Wind spells his name “Wildcat Willie” even though the Horizon’s article above says that his name was changed to “Willy” in 1984-1985.
In the interim, there are a number of other Willy looks. The USOEC featured a rendition of Willy that’s very tough looking for some clothing. That picture is in this CAMPUS article.
There is also a patch being sold on Ebay that features Willy. The tag on the item says that it was sold from the NMU Bookstore. As for what year it was sold, the item description on Ebay says, “A TREMENDOUS Item that I believe to be Around 45 YEARS OLD or OLDER!!” I’d have to agree. If these pictures are any indication that Willy becomes less scary with the years, this patch is probably from long before the 80s.
Willy now is much more friendly. He has a Facebook page and the mascot can be rented for various events. His face is generally more animated and round. However, if his job was to intimate the other team during sporting events, I think he would have been more effective in years past.
Written by Lucy Hough