Life As BYU’s Cosmo: What It Takes To Become A National Champion Mascot

Jun 5, 2020, 3:21 PM | Updated: 3:28 pm

BYU Cosmo - Stephan Millard...

Photo courtesy of Stephan Millard

PROVO, Utah – BYU’s beloved mascot Cosmo gave Cougar fans the closest thing to a sporting event during this COVID-19 pandemic back in April. Cougar fans lifted their beloved mascot to a National Championship by rocking social media voting.

It was a great run and an example of the happiness and fun Cosmo brings to many people’s lives.

Stephan Millard, a BYU graduate in the class of 2020, was one of the people who wore the Cosmo suit the past three years and was behind the mask when Cosmo was named the National Champion of all collegiate mascots.

I caught up with Millard and discussed his time as Cosmo in a recent interview on the Cougar Tracks Podcast exploring everything that goes into being BYU’s favorite Cougar.

Path to becoming Cosmo

Millard is one of those individuals who grew up as a BYU fan remembering moments he had with Cosmo. Those moments played a part in him having a dream to one day attend BYU as a student.

“It was my dream since I was a little kid to go to BYU. I remember meeting Cosmo, which is kind of funny [to think of now]. I grew up going to the games. My grandparents are huge fans, my parents, even though we live in Seattle, have season tickets [to games]. So it had always been a dream of mine to go to BYU.”

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Millard was always active and had a desire to learn new things. A Junior Olympian in gymnastics and a knack for martial arts and dancing, Millard has always found himself moving and being active.

The moving continued to Utah in 2016 as Millard achieved his lifelong goal by enrolling at BYU after serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Being a mascot at BYU however, was something that never crossed his mind.

That was until his friend from Seattle sent him a link to Cosmo’s Instagram page that had a post asking followers to become the next high-flying mascot at BYU. Millard, a guy who always loves learning new dances on YouTube tutorials was intrigued, but at the same time nervous.

Cosmo fans

Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

“I was really hesitant to even try out because all the Cosmo’s that have gone before have just left this incredible legacy. I didn’t think I could make it. But then I decided to talk to my dad and he said, ‘try out anyways.'”

There’s a high standard of excellence to become a Cosmo so the tryouts that Millard attended were not easy.

“The first hour [of the tryout] is physical testing. You max out on everything; max push-ups, max pull-ups, max everything to make you super tired, and to test your endurance. The next two hours we were break dancing, dancing, testing our ability to flip and hit the trampolines. Our endurance was tested because as Cosmo, wearing the mask and the suit, it’s extremely hot. It’s difficult to breathe and it’s difficult to see. So the testing really simulates the experience of being Cosmo.”

Millard, who broke the Missionary Training Center record for pushups as an Elder Missionary in 2014, thrived in the tryout executing 170 consecutive pushups and had 30 dead hang pull-ups. Cosmo’s coach Dave Eberhard, a former mascot himself in the NBA, saw something in Millard and made him an understudy to former Cosmo, Charlie Bird during the 2017 season.

Cosmo’s Viral Moments

Cosmo has had a history for decades of doing impressive stunts that wow fans around the country and the world for that matter.

In 2017, Cosmo became a viral sensation with a dance to Ayo & Teo’s “Rolex” that was performed alongside the BYU’s National Champion dance squad “Cougarettes.” Bird was the one under the suit for that viral moment that has garnered 7.2 million views. That was a high standard to be met as the next Cosmo but Millard continued the viral moments. Highlighted by an incredible dunk from behind the three-point line this past season during a BYU basketball game that had the nation abuzz.

According to Millard, there have been stunts that he did the past two years that he thought would go viral and there were others that they didn’t expect end up becoming a huge hit online.

“It’s really cool to experience those viral moments, but definitely surprising to see what catches the audience’s eyes and then other stunts that kind of flop with the crowd.”

Cosmo’s favorite moment at a BYU game

The viral moments are ones that stick in the minds of BYU fans forever. But for a man who was actually behind the suit, the high-flying dunks or amazing dances don’t always top the list for their favorite moments.

For Millard, BYU football’s win against USC last season tops the list for his favorite moment at a game.

“So it was a really hot day and I had been in the suit for hours and hours. Then the game went into double-overtime. So by the time we got to double overtime, I was just exhausted. I lost a ton of water weight. It was really hard. Then, I was running the field when everyone was storming the field and someone picked me up, and I surfed the crowd for about 30 yards. Not only was it super fun but I was like, close to dying. I was exhausted, so it felt super nice. Everyone was around me, we were on the field with the whole student body, and I was surfing the crowd. That was really cool.”

Road to a National Title

The SiriusXM mascot tournament was a huge deal for BYU fans on Twitter. Cosmo was initially left off the bracket, but then Athletic Director Tom Holmoe and many BYU fans shared their displeasure with the viral sensation being left off. SiriusXM added Cosmo in the “play-in round” where he then advanced to a National Title courtesy of BYU fans rocking the votes in each matchup.

“I was kind of bummed Cosmo wasn’t included initially. But then I really felt the love from fans. Coach [Dave] got a call from SiriusXM to tell us that we were part of the bracket. So we just went straight to work. We did a ton of pictures and videos during that time. We filmed a couple of videos that are still yet to come out. But we had a lot of fun with it. We wanted to make a culmination of everything that Cosmo is and has done and so that’s what we did.

“We were very fortunate that the fans came and showed up. A lot of BYU fans don’t have Twitter. So we got a lot of mail from people telling us that they went and made a Twitter just so they could vote. It was really cool.”

Helping those who are less fortunate

You don’t become a National Champion mascot with just dunks and viral moments. Cosmo has done a lot of good for people over the years and one of Millard’s first assignments as the beloved mascot was a football practice for a “True Blue Hero” who was terminally ill.

“So I went in there and met with him and his family and it was a really touching experience,” Millard said. “Something not exactly you’d think when you sign up for Cosmo. You think of the hype and being in front of the whole football stadium and crowds of cheering people. But to be able to connect with someone on a personal level like that is pretty interesting and special to have as one of my first experiences as Cosmo. It was a beautiful moment.”

Photo (Qiling Wang, Deseret News)

Along with the “True Blue Hero” program, Cosmo also participates in Macs Gift. A charity for children who are battling cancer and every year around Christmas time there’s an event involving the BYU basketball team to give back to those children in need. One family told Millard who was in the Cosmo suit that they came just to get a photo with Cosmo.

“That was a really impactful moment for me. I think that was when it hit that not just doing cool tricks and stuff, but we can actually do something more with [Cosmo]. To bring real joy and happiness to people.”

What’s next after being Cosmo?

With a degree from BYU now in hand, Millard is back in Seattle and where he one day wants to become a portfolio manager. He recently landed a job as an associate property manager at a commercial real estate firm in the Pacific Northwest. Millard said he puts his time as Cosmo on his resume and he feels it was “instrumental” in landing the job.

“I really put my heart and soul into Cosmo. I would go to Vasa or the gym and train extra and research different ways to improve my speed, my vertical. I took dance classes at BYU to improve my ability to dance. I was able to transfer everything that I learned from Cosmo and explain that it really has real-life applications. The ability to learn and grow and push yourself in a way that you didn’t think you could grow. It really applies to everything.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Life As BYU’s Cosmo: What It Takes To Become A National Champion Mascot