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Feature Story: The Hype Man

A version of this story was published.

“I’m a beast. I’m a champion. I’m a monster. I can handle this. I can do anything. I’m going to make these people hype.”

That is what Terry Peppers says to motivate himself every time he goes on the football field to motivate others. Peppers, a 20-year-old marketing junior, is the new hype man for sporting events at the University of Florida.

The hype man is a member of the UF cheerleading team who has one mission: to get UF students and alumni excited about the Gators.

Peppers takes on that mission at every football game with nothing more than a microphone, an orange-and-blue outfit and a collection of dance moves and Gator cheers.

Maggie Martin, the assistant coach of the UF cheerleading team, said the hype man plays a “crucial role” in engaging the audience at football games. Martin said that Peppers’ high energy and “big, infectious smile” make him the perfect person for the role.

“Terry has such a magnetic energy and charisma,” Martin said. ‘It’s this sparkle that you’re just born with. He has the ability to get out on the field in front of 90,000 fans and get everybody excited and smiling. And honestly, you really can’t help but smile when you see Terry.”

And you will know him when you see him -- just look for the man with the microphone and the orange-and-blue argyle pants.

“People know me for my pants,” Peppers said. “If you see them, you’ll know why. They’re over the top and funky, just like me.”

Peppers said he wanted to become hype man after discovering that “such a fun and wild position existed on campus.” His friends, his mom and even former hype man and UF alum Bunduki “Duke” Ramadan said he would be a good fit for the role.

“I talked to Duke, the first hype man,” Peppers said, “and he told me that if he could go back and choose one experience on campus to do again, it would be hype man. He totally sold me on it.”

So Peppers went to work.

“Imagine a skinny kid on the first floor of Infinity Hall yelling, ‘Give me a G! Give me an A!’ at 1 in the morning,” Peppers said. “I definitely got my practice in. A few people walked by and I would scream, ‘Give me a T!’”

No one gave him a T.

Then Peppers tried out for hype man in front of a panel of judges and put his hours of practice to the test.

No one gave him a T.

Then Peppers walked out on the field as the new hype man at the football game against the University of Massachusetts on September 3.

Over 80,000 people gave him a T.    

Peppers said he has been hooked on that “electric” feeling ever since.

“The stadium looks good from the crowd, but it looks absolutely amazing from the field,” Peppers said. “It looks beautiful. You can see everyone’s face in a sea of blue and orange. There’s so, so much energy and excitement there.”

The hype man guides that energy.

Joshua Tylerbest, a senior studying information systems, has been a member of the UF cheerleading team for four years. He cheered in games before and after the hype man position was created in fall 2014.

Tylerbest said that having a hype man on the field makes a “really drastic” difference.

“With the hype man, the crowd can follow along with the cheers and all do the same thing at once,” Tylerbest said. “It gets really loud in the Swamp, which is awesome, but it’s also really hard to hear the cheerleaders. Terry is able to grab the crowd’s attention and get everyone involved in what we’re doing.”

Peppers is the middleman between the cheerleaders and the crowd.

Max Barry, a senior studying business management and the captain of the cheerleading team, said the hype man allows the cheerleaders to be more directly connected to fans.

“The microphone is a lot louder than what we can produce,” Barry said. “We didn’t know what we were missing until we had the hype man. It's exciting to try new things and to use Terry to do things differently than our team has done them before.”

Peppers said he embraces the traditional chants -- like spelling out G-A-T-O-R-S and having the crowd yell “Orange!’ and “Blue!” -- but likes to add his own flavor and experiment during games to find what works best.

“I don’t want to be the guy who says the words and checks out,” Peppers said. “I want to be the guy who makes people say, ‘Wow, T-Pepps hyped me up today.’ I want to get better after every single game.”

At the end of each game day, Peppers is exhausted.

“You can find me sprawled out on the floor sleeping,” Peppers said. “Then I’m ready to get up and do it all over again.”

Elle Beecher