We asked some of the 39 men who portrayed Chief Illiniwek: What was your funniest, most forgettable experience while wearing the beaded buckskin?
Here’s Chief No. 36, the last to be officially recognized by the UI: Dan Maloney, now a financial advisor at Edward Jones of Indianapolis:
“2006, the Syracuse game, at a scorching Memorial Stadium. Considering you perform the dance barefoot, every part of my being was preparing for my feet to be prepared a la steak tartare. You could see the heat rising off the field.
“As I’m sneaking through the band, a freshman tenor saxophone named Anna Massie was so excited performing during the 'Three in One' that she turned the bell of her saxophone far too quickly on the counter march. How she describes it was: ‘I hear a thunk and a groan, and I can only think: Who did I just hit?’
"Then she looks up and sees Chief Illiniwek break through the band.
“What she didn’t know: The bell of the saxophone caught me perfectly in the ribs, knocking the wind out of me about three seconds before I was to burst forth from the band. I had to push through — feet on fire, barely able to breathe — for the three-and-a-half minutes of the most difficult dance one could perform.
“When I was finally able to become me again, the first thing I did was scream.”