Blue Zoo President Sawyer Roberts and Vice President Coby Marlow beamed with pride recently as the giant Blue Zoo banner was again unfurled inside Floyd Stadium at Middle Tennessee State University — a sight they expect to see numerous times this year when the Blue Raider football team takes the field at home.
About 300 enthusiastic students from the Office of Student Success’s Scholars Academy and STAR early arrival programs gathered in the student section inside Floyd as Roberts and Marlow, as leaders of the campus athletics booster group, directed them on how to unfurl the banner as the MTSU fight song blared from the stadium speakers.
It was the same scenario that will play out when the banner is unfurled each time the Blue Raider football team scores at home this year, with the first home game of the season slated for Sept. 17 against Tennessee State University.
“I’m hoping to keep the energy they brought today, to keep it throughout the season,” said Roberts, a junior video production major from Oneida, Tennessee. “I always say our guys on the field control everything physical wise, but mentally, we make that hostile environment for the other team. … This kickoff gives us a lot of hope, a lot of excitement for the season.”
Head football coach Rick Stockstill, joined by his recently named team captains for the unveiling, thanked the students for attending and encouraged them to support all the university athletic teams with their passion and energy.
“These guys feed off your energy. So we hope you will come out here and make these games loud, energetic,” Stockstill said. “I appreciate everything you do in supporting our football team and other athletic teams here.”
Marlow, a junior business major also from Oneida, Tennessee, and Roberts’ cousin, said it was Roberts who urged him to get involved with the Blue Zoo. Membership in the Blue Zoo, which revived as a student organization in 2019, is free — all students have to do is sit in the student section at Blue Raider games.
Students wishing to be more involved and informed about the Zoo are encouraged to register as a member by going to https://mtsu.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/bluezoo.
“I was never really a ‘student section’ type of person in high school or anything like (Roberts) was,” Marlow said. “But when I got here and saw what the environment could be and the potential it has, I decided that I had to get involved. … I want to start something here and I want to make sure that we keep this energy up for the players.
“We want Blue Zoo to be known everywhere.”
MTSU Deputy Athletic Director Lee De León, who hopes to start the tradition of a “Let’s Go Blue” chant to accompany the fight song, reminded the students in attendance that all they needed was their student ID to attend any athletic event featuring the university’s 16 teams.
“We have tailgating for our football games, and we want you guys to be a part of that. It’s a big deal over at the (Walnut) Grove. We want you guys to come, have a great time, but then come to the games … We need you in these seats, cheering and going crazy for the Blue Raiders,” he said.
MTSU football player Jordan Ferguson, a defensive end, was among the five captains who stopped by the Zoo kickoff with their head coach to thank the students and encourage them to turn out for the games. Joining him was wide receiver Yusuf Ali, quarterback Chase Cunningham, wide receiver Jaylin Lane and defensive tackle Ja’Kerrius Wyatt.
“We appreciate y’all so much and everything you do for us,” Ferguson said. “We need you on game days. … So bring your families, bring your friends, bring your cousins, and let’s have some fun. Go Blue!”
Students and Blue Raider fans will soon have another opportunity to rev up their school spirit at the Blue Zoo Bash, which will be held from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, on the lawn of the Campus Recreation Center. The nighttime tailgating-themed event just before the Sept. 17 home opener against TSU will feature music, food, inflatables and games.
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)