In recognition of Meers’s return to the field and his lifelong accomplishments, the NFL mascot community announced a new honor at its summit last year in Indianapolis: the Dan Meers Lifetime Achievement Award. “I thought, ‘If it’s named the Dan Meers Lifetime Achievement Award,’” said Meers, “‘I might have a good chance of winning this one.’” He did.
I spoke with Meers for The Atlantic’s series on mentorship, “On the Shoulders of Giants.” The conversation that follows has been edited for length and clarity.
Steven Johnson: You do lots of appearances every year that aren’t at football games. Do those take a different skillset than being on the field?
Dan Meers: It’s funny you should say that, because I had a guy yesterday who called me, and he’s like, “Yeah, I really want to get into being a mascot. I’ve dressed up like the Chick-fil-A cow.” I’m thinking, “Well, there’s a little more to it.” [Laughs] The thing I enjoy about the mascot business is that you have to have a general knowledge about a lot of things: We do a lot of marketing, promotion, and community relations. There’s more to it than throwing on a costume and being entertaining.
I tell this to guys all the time: You got to be good in costume, because that’s where people are going to see you—but if you really want to make [a mascot program] go, what you do out of costume is just as important as what you do in costume.
Johnson: There are really deep rivalries between NFL teams. Are mascots competitive in the same way?
Meers: We all get along really well, and we try to share ideas: what’s been successful, and what hasn’t been successful in our markets. They’re committed not only to being good on the football field, but to excellence off the field and in the community as well.
That’s the kind of stuff that makes this job fun. The best part of this job are the relationships you build with people. The Pro Bowl’s fun, going to Hawaii, and Florida, and other trips you take are a whole lot of fun. But when I sit and I look at my career, the stuff I will remember the most are the relationships I’ve built with people and the fans.
Johnson: What does mentorship among NFL mascots actually look like?
Meers: I heard a quote one time from John Maxwell [a pastor and motivational speaker], who said, “Leadership’s not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. Leadership’s about one life influencing another.” As a mascot, we’ve got a platform. It’s a crazy platform—I’ll be first to admit it—but we’ve got a platform that is very recognizable. People may not know who Dan Meers is in Kansas City, but they know who KC Wolf is.
Johnson: Are there any mentees of yours who stand out?
Meers: Andrew Johnson, for the Houston Texans. He used to bring his high-school mascot costume to the grocery store that I was making an appearance at, and he would follow me around in his costume at the same time. At first I thought, “Well, this is kind of odd.”