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Johnny Aardvark, 1968

An aardvark as UT Arlington’s mascot. It could’ve happened. Maybe. The story begins almost a century ago.

Johnny Aardvark

From 1917, when it joined the Texas A&M System, to 1921, the school’s athletic teams answered to Grubbers (after the school’s name, Grubbs Vocational College) and Shorthorns (after the campus newspaper, The Shorthorn).

Hornets entered the picture in 1921 but buzzed away quickly. When the school became North Texas Agricultural College in 1923, the yearbook was called the Junior Aggie, setting in motion a shift from Hornets to Junior Aggies. The institution became Arlington State College in 1949, and the nickname formally changed to Blue Riders. Except Blue Riders never caught on.

In 1951 Rebels won a student vote, and mascot Johnny Reb became a fixture at sporting events. The Old South theme was never seriously questioned until spring 1965 when social progress heralded a more racially sensitive moniker.

The campus held several votes for name changes over the next six years, including 1968 when Aardvarks—the first animal listed in the dictionary—was the top vote-getter. Never the official mascot, Johnny Aardvark made several appearances that year, including at the Homecoming parade and a few football games.

In a 1971 election in which students could vote for any name other than Rebels, Mavericks prevailed over Toros, Rangers, and Hawks.

The first Maverick mascot was a horned horse. In later years it was loosely patterned after Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870), a Texas lawyer, politician, and land baron. His name is the source of the term “maverick,” which means “independently minded.”

Blaze, a white horse with a blue mane, represents today’s Maverick mascot. Horses can run circles around aardvarks. Besides, “Let’s go, Aards”? Nah.