A serious conversation with "Billy Floyd" requires a private setting, as Mr. Floyd must first remove his entire head before any chat.
“Billy Floyd,” the mascot of William Floyd High School, got a lot of love from the students, parents and other guests attending the school’s homecoming football game Saturday.
Walking slowly through the crowd, he was easy to spot -- standing about 7 feet tall and sporting a Colonial hat has a way of making mascots stand out. Stopping frequently to silently socialize with the home team fans, people laughed and tried to chat with Billy, but had to settle for high-fives and handshakes.
“I’m not allowed to talk to anyone when I’m in the suit,” explains Andrew Bilotti. Only in eighth grade, Andrew was recruited when a Floyd administrator was made aware of Andrew’s school spirit while playing football at the middle school level. “Mostly waves and thumbs-ups” is how he communicates while in the suit.
However, it’s not just the struggle to be heard from within the mask.
“I’m not even allowed to tell the other students I do this,” he explained after getting permission to spill the beans in an exclusive interview.
According to William Paca Middle School football coach Kevin Durant (also Andrew’s football coach), the idea is that Billy Floyd is always Billy Floyd, not a kid in a costume.
“Plus, we don’t want to freak out any of the little kids in the crowd,” Durant said when explaining why the big head only comes off in seclusion.
It’s no easy job being a mascot, says Andrew. “The hardest part is just trying not to fall down.”
Throughout games, Durant walks alongside Andrew, guiding him around obstacles, though gates and making sure he avoids stepping on anyone.
“I can’t ever see where I’m going,” Andrew said.
Then again, even taking a respite can lead to frustration.
“I need help getting dressed every time, with the zippers and stuff,” he said.
A silent, cumbersome and visually stunted trade it may be, yet Andrew still recommends the job, thinking he may even forego football as he gets older and stay on as the mascot. it's a plan that worked for a previous "Billy Floyd" and the current homecoming king -- Andrew’s older brother, John.
“I wore the suit in 9th and 10th grade, and I’d say it worked out for me,” John said.
“I have a lot of school spirit, so it’s a good job for me,” Andrew said. “For anyone who’d want to try to do it, you really need to be ‘Floyd-Strong.’ ”
Spoken like a true mascot.