Not a Hatchling Anymore
Antonio Gonzalez III ’82
Before there was Rowdy, there was simply the Roadrunner.
And rallying the fans at UTSA’s first basketball game in 1981 from inside the stuffy bird suit was Antonio Gonzalez III–UTSA’s first mascot.
It happened quite by accident. A check of his business administration degree requirements during his senior year revealed that Gonzalez still needed one semester of PE to graduate.
"I decided to take gymnastics," the self-described class clown said. "I didn’t know at the time, but our instructor was going to be in charge of the cheerleaders and the mascot. One day she called me over and said, ‘I want you to try out for the mascot.’"
When Gonzalez asked what he would have to do, his instructor didn’t mince words.
"She said, ‘I just want you to behave on the basketball court the way you do in my class.’"
Gonzalez followed that advice at tryouts and won the mascot role over a handful of other hopefuls.
Today, more than 30 years after Gonzalez’s first appearance as the Roadrunner, the operations manager for Lonestar Radiator Co. in San Antonio remembers the thrill of hatching out of an egg that he and cheerleaders had built for that first game at HemisFair Arena against the University of Arkansas.
"I got in the egg before the game started," he recalled. "The pep band played, I believe it was [music from] 2001: A Space Odyssey. They dimmed the lights."
He remembers hoping he would pop out of the egg at the right time and how gratifying it was for fans to see their first game, complete with a mascot.
"It was hot," he said of the costume. "It took a little bit of time to get used to. But I was so excited about being out on the floor that it didn’t really matter."
Among Gonzalez’s favorite memories as the Roadrunner are roller-skating on the court, traveling to an away game at the University of Houston, and participating in a Fiesta parade. He also remembers having to figure out the boundaries of his antics. During one game he was hamming it up under the basket while a player from the opposing team attempted a free throw. The ref was not amused.
"If you don’t get away from here you are going to cost your team a technical foul," he recalls the ref telling him.
It was decades ago that Gonzalez helped ignite the orange and blue spirit of game-day revelers. But his ties to the university continue to run deep. His wife, Sandra H. Gonzalez, received her degree in English from UTSA and teaches eighth-grade English. Their daughter is a junior at UTSA and plays piccolo in the marching band. UTSA is among the universities their son, a senior in high school, is considering.
And Gonzalez still enjoys watching Rowdy at games, which now occur on the field as well as on the court.
But for him, being a part of the university’s first foray into college sports and the attendant school pride is something that he will never forget.
"You can do little things for the university and it’s always a part of you," he said. "That’s something that can’t ever be taken away from you."
And if the opportunity arose for a reprise, would he suit up?
"I could put that thing back on in a heartbeat," he said. "It would be a blast."