Behind the Scenes: The NJIT Highlander

Behind the Scenes: The NJIT Highlander

(Photo by Yukthi Sangoi)

Maybe you’ve seen his familiar face at Homecoming or during sporting events — no one has more school spirit than NJIT’s mascot, the Highlander! 

The NJIT Highlander website states that on May 26, 1949, the Newark College of Engineering — known today as NJIT — voted on the name Highlanders as the athletics teams of the campus because the college was located on the Highlands of Newark. Back then, the student newspaper, The Vector, was called The Technician. 

The athletics department built the 255-pound, 6’4” figure as the “embodiment of strength and endurance for the athletics teams,” according to the NJIT Highlander website. With red hair and brown eyes, he calls Newark — or Brick City — his home. His favorite music artist is The Proclaimers, but he loves to listen to anything with bagpipes. His favorite pets include the Scottish Terrier and Scottish Deerhound.  

The website recounts that the first version of the Highlander featured “a two-colored mask with a fierce divide of gold and silver split down the middle. His long locks of bronze hair spoke of the battles he fought for our teams.” He also wore a kilt, a tradition that has continued to the current Highlander, founded in the winter of 2008. Like the first Highlander, he carries around a sword and shield, exuding bravery, vigor, and readiness — qualities reflected by Highlander athletes.  

Now, the Highlander’s responsibilities include interacting with fans, bringing spirit to campus, and creating an all-around fun environment for visitors as well as NJIT community members. As of recent years, the Highlander attends sporting, campus, and outside events whenever he is called for by others.  

Learning the role of the mascot can be quite daunting at first, the current mascot says, but once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes second nature. He loves being able to dance, take selfies, give fist bumps, and act silly while in the costume, with no one knowing his real identity as a student.  

One of the toughest parts of being the mascot is putting on the costume and not overheating in it, especially while being indoors or when it’s the summer. The order of wearing the clothing is as follows: pants with suspenders, top skin, NJIT jersey, kilt, shoes, head, and sword. The mascot used to hold both a sword and shield while in costume, but it becomes difficult to walk around with both hands holding an object.  

It takes about five to 10 minutes for the mascot to get dressed fully. The helmet inside the head part is the most difficult aspect to get used to clipping together. The Highlander has a specific room in the Wellness and Events Center to get ready, and the mascot needs to swipe his NJIT ID card to gain access to the room; sometimes, the mascot forgets to keep his card because there aren’t any pockets on the inside of the costume.  

However, Fan Engagement & Marketing Coordinator Heather Bradley is always there for the mascot in case of any mishap, so he doesn’t have to worry about being locked out of the room forever! The flexibility of the role is another great aspect of being the mascot; being a commuter or resident doesn’t affect his ability to be a great spirit source on campus. 

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