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Behind the Green Suit

A glimpse into the world of Pat Johnson, one of Notre Dame’s famed leprechaun mascots.

Carrying the flag, Pat leads the team onto the field. Photo: Notre Dame

The world of mascots is shrouded in a veil of mystery. Who are they? What happens behind the scenes? When most people think of the person behind the mask, they picture a class clown, a slacker, or a stoner. Notre Dame’s leprechaun stands in stark contrast to these stereotypes. The Notre Dame leprechaun is a professional role that embodies the slogan, “God, Country, Notre Dame (In Glory Everlasting).” No Notre Dame fan is more passionate than Pat Johnson, a student at Notre Dame and one of the school’s leprechaun mascots.

I sat down with one of my friends, Leprechaun Pat (as he is known around campus), for a video call as he explained who exactly the leprechaun is and what this role means to him.

“The leprechaun is way bigger than one person. In my mind, it’s the foremost ambassador to the university and it’s that person who really embodies the Fighting Irish spirit. For a long time, there was only one leprechaun who would travel everywhere doing football, basketball, etc. but now we have four. This idea that a leprechaun should be a little 5’5 white guy with red hair – that’s not how we view it anymore. The leprechaun is who can really embody and represent the university.”

“What does it mean to me? It’s a hell of a role - I get to have fun representing the university that I love.”

How does anyone even become a leprechaun in the first place? Since the leprechaun is a role model for all Notre Dame fans filling the position is no easy process. Applicants face a gauntlet of interviews in front of judging panels and have to perform at mock pep rallies before they can put on the green suit. When asked about his cheer background, Pat said,

“It definitely helps. I would say it helps because you know the coaches and they know your personality… A lot of these people are incredibly talented people with unique voices. Sam Jackson is one person that comes to mind: he was incredible. I don’t know if he was classically trained, but this kid could think on his feet. You can tell if a leprechaun was a cheerleader too because they’ll understand the importance of working a crowd and connecting with them.”

Pat (first from right) does an Irish jig along with other leprechaun applicants. Photo: Notre Dame