The man behind the Flash

Flash, the official Kent State mascot, poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 at the M.A.C. Center.

Erin Zaranec

In 2011, T.M. rode along with the Kent State football team to a game at Kansas State University when he asked a simple question to a staff member of the school’s athletic department.

“Hey, are you guys still looking for someone to be Flash?”

Flash, the life-sized body suit of Kent State’s Golden Flash mascot, can be seen at nearly every sporting event, hyping up the crowd and cheering the university’s team to victory.

T.M., then completing his undergraduate degree as a commuter student from Kent State’s Stark Campus, quickly filled the gig when he received confirmation that the athletic department needed students willing to suit up as the school’s mascot.

Now, five years later, T.M. is in his first year of graduate school at Kent State, and is known as the ‘veteran Flash’ in the athletic department.

While T.M. is proud of his role as a campus mascot, there is one strict requirement to the job: his identity must remain anonymous.

“It helps keep the magic behind the mascot,” said Matthew Payton II, a senior integrative studies major who works as the assistant director of marketing in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. “Flash has his own persona and that’s … (one way) to keep Flash as a person versus just a furry suit that someone gets into.”

Security is so tight on Flash’s identity that The Kent Stater was not allowed to photograph T.M. as Flash.

While Flash may be most associated with his role of being a hype man at sporting events, he serves at a variety of on — and off — campus events, including welcome events, orientations, festivals and parades.

Requests for Flash can be made through, with the cost of an appearance from Flash ranging from $50 to $100.

While T.M. may be a student, he’s also a full-time Flash, working the job year-round. T.M. has been suited up and walking nearly four miles as Flash in Kent State’s July 4 parade, works sporting events, graduations and events at regional campuses. T.M. has even made an appearance as Flash at a children’s birthday party in Kent.

Out of five years of being Flash, one memory stands out in T.M.’s career as a mascot. 

“It was the game that we clinched the MAC East in 2012. All we had to do was beat Bowling Green (State University) to get to the MAC Championship against Northeastern Illinois (University), and winning that game, being there for that, was amazing. Following that, you had the MAC Championship and the bowl game, which I got to go to,” T.M. said. “That was the best game, the best memory ever.”

While being Flash has it’s perks, it’s not always an easy job. To be Flash, T.M. said students have to pay attention to their health and nutrition. During this year’s first home football game, T.M. was suited up for eight consecutive hours due to rain delays and multiple overtimes.

“It can get rough. I easily drink four one-liter bottles of water and I eat protein bars,” T.M. said.

The athletic department is currently looking for more students to fill the role of Flash, which is a paid student employment opportunity. Any student 5’7” or taller is eligible to apply — but representing Kent State takes more than just a basic job interview.

T.M. said interested students will meet Payton and the marketing team, and run through a variety of Flash scenarios outside of the suit. Once the marketing department has narrowed the selection to the final four or five students, trial runs of Flash begin.

“We’ll throw someone in the suit and send them down to the Student Center with the directive of ‘ok, go and have fun,’ and really just see what they do,” T.M. said. “We need to see if they can stay in character, if they can live up to the hype of it.”

Trial runs help ensure that students really have what it takes to not only suit up, but take on the persona of Flash.

”You have to be comfortable with yourself and getting outside of your own skin a bit. If you can’t be goofy or weird and be okay with it, then it’s not going to work,” T.M. said.

The role of Flash isn’t one to take lightly, though.

“When you think of the university, Flash is probably in the top five things that come to your mind. The minute (Flash) leaves the M.A.C. Center to go to an event, the amount of people who stop you to take pictures, the amount of people who stop you to give you a high five — it’s almost overwhelming,” Payton said.

After five years, T.M. is still just as passionate about the job as he was the first time he took on the title of Flash.

“(I do it for) the game day atmosphere, the fans … when you see a kid who is just so excited to see you and all they do is smile,” T.M. said. “I know it’s not about me, it’s about Flash, but still — it’s just so cool.”