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Student 'behind' Louie the Laker revealed

  • Louie the Laker on stage
  • student in shadows
  • student talking to camera

Posted on May 17, 2017

It started with a cow costume.

When Jake Kowalski was in high school, he filled in as a dairy company's mascot to attract people to a promotional event. Since then, he has been hooked on the entertaining lifestyle of being a mascot.

When he was accepted at Grand Valley four years ago, Kowalski set his sights on moving up in world of mascots; he wanted to be Louie the Laker.

"Being that cow made me realize that I can make myself stand out, and I loved entertaining people," said Kowalski, a hospitality and tourism management major.

Kowalski assumed the personality of Louie the Laker for the past four years. While it's unusual to reveal the person inside the mascot costume, Kowalski will graduate in December and said he understands that someone will, literally, have big shoes to fill.

Kelsey Penland is the community relations director for Laker athletics and is charged with the task of hiring the next Louie. Penland is accepting applications through July 28; contact her at penlanke@gvsu.edu for details.

Kowalski, from Grosse Pointe, said some weeks he would have as many as 10 appearances as Louie. Louie is a common sight on campus, attending sports events and major academic and student events, and giving out tons of high-fives. Requests for Louie appearances off-campus have increased, including at Grand Rapids Drive basketball games, Whitecaps baseball games and at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

"When I would visit sick kids, people didn't know I was crying inside the costume," Kowalski said.

He added that it's about 40 degrees hotter inside the costume than the outside air temperature, so like other athletes, Kowalski trains for the heat by practicing with a thermal blanket.

He has more advice for the next Louie. 

"Have a lot of energy and be reliable, and it will be a very memorable experience," he said.

— Video produced by GVTV, Cali Hubbard