Costumed Rameses at Carmichael Auditorium
|University||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
|Origin of name||Jack ("The Battering Ram") Merritt|
Rameses is the ram mascot of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Two versions of Rameses appear at UNC sporting events. One is a member of the UNC cheerleading team in an anthropomorphic ram costume; the second is a live Horned Dorset Sheep named Rameses who attends Carolina football games with his horns painted Carolina Blue.
The origin of a ram as North Carolina's mascot dates back to 1924. In 1922, the star fullback, Jack Merritt, was given the nickname "the battering ram" for his performance on the field, as well as for an initiation ritual he created for male freshman students. Vic Huggins, North Carolina's head cheerleader at the time, suggested the idea of a ram mascot to the athletic business manager, Charles T. Woollen, and had the idea approved. Charles gave Vic $25 to purchase a ram. Rameses the First was shipped from Texas, just in time for the pep rally.
The first appearance of Rameses was at a pep rally before the football game against Virginia Military Institute on November 8, 1924. After the pep rally the ram was taken to Emerson Field. Through three quarters the game was scoreless. Late in the fourth quarter Bunn Hackney was called out to attempt a field goal. Before stepping out on the field he rubbed Rameses' head. Just a few seconds later Hackney kicked a 30-yard field goal that eventually won the game for the Tar Heels; the final score was 3-0. Rameses has been a fixture on the sidelines at UNC football games ever since. The current Rameses ram is under the care of the Hogan family of Chapel Hill.
The origin of the costumed version of Rameses dates back to the 1987-88 season. Auditions were held and a senior, Eric Chilton from Mount Airy, NC was given the honor to be the first mascot. Since auditions were held in the middle of the school year he only served for half a year and only showed up in a few basketball games in early 1988. The costume was made locally and looked different than the one used now but he is recorded as the first costumed Rameses in UNC history.
Killing of Rameses XXIII
In February 1996, Rameses XXIII was killed in his pasture at the Hogan farm. An attacker slashed the ram's throat and cut off its left front leg, stabbing it as many as 10 times along its chest and neck. State veterinarians stated that the slash to its throat was most likely the fatal wound. Police later charged 26-year-old Scott Wade, who was drunk at the time of the slaying and had stumbled into the field. He claimed he killed the ram because he was hungry. He was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty.
On March 23, 2007, Jason Ray, the cheerleader assigned to the Rameses costume, was struck by a vehicle outside the North Carolina cheerleaders' hotel on Route 4 in Fort Lee, New Jersey prior to the men's basketball team's Sweet Sixteen game with the University of Southern California. He died on March 26, 2007 at the Hackensack University Medical Center as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident.
Ray was an honors student and was due to graduate that May with a degree in business, and minor in religious studies. He was an Eagle Scout with Troop 38 in Concord, NC, had gone on three missionary trips (Haiti, Honduras, and Puerto Rico) to work with children, had visited the Sistine Chapel, run with the bulls in Spain, and spent a summer studying in Copenhagen, Denmark. Ray was also an active member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, his church choir, and was lead singer in the band 9pm Traffic.
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