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Ozzie molts on his experiences as a mascot

As far as alter-egos go, a feathery, 7 foot tall Osprey named Ozzie remains Matt Biegun’s.

Biegun, who performs as UNF’s chief mascot, Ozzie, has advanced to the Elite 8 round in SportsTalkNY’s Annual Mascot Madness competition March 28.

Competing in the “Fish and Fowl Division,” Ozzie has already beaten out University of Miami’s Sebastian the Ibis in the first round and faces competition from Scrappy the Mockingbird from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Biegun, who has been performing as a professional mascot for more than four years (as Ozzie for three), began his career playing a Chick-fil-A cow at an Adventure Landing water park’s Easter event.

After tasting the limelight the character costumes brought upon him, Biegun created the character “Shipwreck Rick” for the same park that gave him his start of his full-time career.

“I performed whenever I had the time,” Biegun said. “It was an amazing experience, and Shipwreck led me to Ozzie.”

Now that he’s held the title of Ozzie for three years, Beigun describes the osprey as better looking than one of Hollywood’s biggest hot shots, and he feels performing as a mascot has opened doors. 

“I’ve done things as Ozzie I would have never tried without him,” Biegun said. “Ozzie is my alter-ego. Think of ‘Fight Club’ but with Ozzie being 10 times more awesome than Brad Pitt.”

But even with his history of being a mascot, the highlight of his career didn’t come until this year. Biegun considers the UNF women’s basketball team playing for the A-Sun title as one of the wildest games he’s ever attended. 

“I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t absolutely exhausted after those games because the emotions were running high,” Biegun said. “I tend to push my limits when I’m pumped up.”

With riding on scooters and dancing listed as some of Ozzie’s favorite activities and various mammals listed as his rivals, Ozzie’s likes and dislikes transcend what average birds consider normalcy.

More than just a joke, Biegun feels mascots play an integral role in team sports. 

“We [mascots] are the face of the team and usually the most recognizable and approachable ‘people’ during the game,” Biegun said. 

Aside from getting the crowd to participate in UNF’s staple swoop, Biegun gets creative when pumping up the Ospreys. 

“During a timeout, I slide on my belly so I can bite a ref’s ankle,” Biegun said.

Listed as weighing a few pounds short of the elevator limit and sporting a number 72 jersey, Ozzie feels UNF has some of the best fans in the university circuit despite being relatively new, Biegun said. 

“Most college programs have had years to get their chants and taunts to where they are today,” Biegun said. “We’ve got some of the best fans. Next year is going to be nuts.”

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