Marty & McGee: College football has its favorite live mascots, from huggable Uga to pigs of prey

Each week during the 2020 season, Marty Smith and Ryan McGee will celebrate all of the stuff that makes college football great: the sights, sounds, places and pageantry that make it the greatest sport in these United States of America. The same kind of conversations you can hear and see during Marty & McGee, Wednesdays on SEC Network/ESPN App (7 p.m. ET) and Saturday mornings on SEC Network/ESPN App and ESPN Radio (7-10 a.m. ET). This week the boys look back on their close encounters with college football's best -- and sometimes scariest -- live mascots.

Ryan McGee: OK, I know where you're going to start because I was there. SEC Nation live at Auburn one year ago.

Marty Smith: Son, we have all seen the War Eagle swooping into Jordan Hare Stadium, and it's amazing. But last year I stood on a stage with him and until you've done that, you have NO IDEA how big that bird is.

McGee: My favorite part was watching y'all try to play it cool up on that stage with that bird, but you were also kind of quietly backing away from it, too. I thought Tim Tebow was going to accidentally fall off the stage and Marcus Spears, a legendary defensive player, was a nervous wreck. He even asked the question, "What do you do when the eagle goes crazy?"

Marty: It unfurled those wings and it had a wingspan of six-and-a-half feet. Six-and-a-half feet! And all I could think was, man, I am so glad I'm not the prey, trying to escape that bird traveling 120 miles per hour! That is the definition of a what they call a bird of prey.

McGee: Like an opposing player trying to avoid Ralphie the Buffalo before a Colorado game. She -- yes, Ralphie is a she -- runs up to 25 mph down the sideline during pregame. My dad officiated an Orange Bowl between Notre Dame and Colorado and when they had the meeting to talk logistics, Lou Holtz yelled, "How the hell does this work with the buffalo?!" They laughed, but then realized he was serious. He didn't want Tony Rice or Chris Zorich to get run over by a buffalo before the game started.

Marty: A buffalo of prey.

McGee: They won't tell you where Ralphie lives. It's a secret because years ago some Air Force Academy cadets kidnapped her. By the way, I once had Ace, the Air Force Academy falcon, on my arm. That was intense, and Ace was relatively tiny compared to your War Eagle.

Marty: Speaking of intense, how about Mike the Tiger? Mike is a Louisiana badass. In his multimillion dollar, immaculately maintained, habitat just chilling. You had the greatest moment of your television career with Mike.

McGee: I was live on SportsCenter in front of Mike's habitat and this kid walked into my shot. I couldn't do anything about that. But then his grandma, with a cigarette hanging off her lip, started screaming at me, "HEY! MY GRANDSON WANTS TO SEE MIKE! MOVE!"

Marty: I did a live shot at that same spot where grandma got pissed with you; I was with former LSU head coach Les Miles. I asked him about a possible return to coaching and he said, "It's certainly something I'm interested in doing, but Marty, whether or not that happens, I don't know." Then, 13 minutes after I said goodbye to Les Miles, he got the job at Kansas. The Magic of Mike. Magic Mike!

McGee: When I was a student at Tennessee and on the video crew, we went to Death Valley the night before the game to unload all our gear and put it in the stadium. Back then, Mike didn't have his habitat, he was in a cage next to the stadium. It was dark, like midnight, and we had no idea he was there. All the sudden, out of the moss trees he let out a roar that made our knees buckle.

Marty: I feel like we're scaring people too bad here. How about a live mascot you want to hug? I want to hug Uga. Here's the thing about Uga. Uga ain't worried about what you're doing. Uga is worried about Uga. He even maintained his chill when Bevo came after him at 2019 Sugar Bowl. He lives in an air-conditioned house. He has his own hotel suite. Uga doesn't come to you, Uga lets people come to him. I have a lot of admiration about that.

McGee: When you listen to Marty & McGee on ESPN Radio, the Southern woman's voice you hear at the top of every hour is Lynn Allen, my mother-in-law.

Marty: Nana Lynn!

McGee: Right! Well, Nana Lynn grew up in Savannah, and when she was a teenager she rode to a Georgia game with the Siler family, who have always taken care of all the Ugas, and she rode to Athens with Uga in her lap.

Marty: What?! I always thought Nana Lynn was sweeter than strawberry wine, but she just got even sweeter. That's a huggable mascot right there because she literally hugged him. And the other dog I want to hug is Reveille, down there at Texas A&M. She has a diamond-studded blanket. She holds the highest rank in the Corps of Cadets. She holds the most esteemed position on campus. Jimbo Fisher makes $75 million. Buzz Williams, athletic director Ross Bjork, none of them have it better than Reveille does.

McGee: And when she leaves this mortal coil, she takes her place in a cemetery next to Kyle Field that is slanted toward the stadium and has its own little scoreboard so all the Reveilles cans keep track of the Aggies. I have hugged Uga. I have hugged my dog Smokey at Tennessee. I have even hugged Traveler at USC, after he almost ran over me in the Coliseum. But I have not hugged Reveille. I didn't want to get shot.

Marty: I really feel like there are some schools who don't have a live mascot, but they totally should. Like Oregon State, they really need to incorporate a live beaver into their pregame ceremonies.

McGee: There were some schools who had one but stopped it because it was a bad idea. Years ago, NC State used to have a real wolf. Then they tried to use a white husky dog, but everyone was like, "Hey, we know that's just a dog." Baker Mayfield's dad was a quarterback at Houston back in the day, and he told me they had a big cougar with just a rope around its neck.

Marty: Yeah, that's pretty safe. Nothing like having a cat of prey on the sideline. Is that what you call them, a cat of prey?

McGee: We said bird of prey, so yeah, I guess so.

Marty: A cat of prey, prepared to rip your larynx out of your throat at any instant, hanging out on the sidelines like a ball boy. Go Cougars!

McGee: There's a famous photo that ran in the Atlanta paper of Danny Ford when he was head coach at Clemson, holding his team back before they ran out of the dugout at Fulton County Stadium for the Peach Bowl, because Baylor had a live bear back then and they were walking it by the dugout, again, with nothing but a rope around its neck.

Marty: What would really be scary would be an Arkansas Razorbacks live mascot. Them razorbacks are a mean something. They'll come eat you, son. Those are pigs of prey.