Andrew Johnson is part of a very elite furternity.
By days, he is a mild-mannered University of Missouri-Kansas City business grad, who controls the reins of his ever-expanding empire.
By night, he is the personal wrangler for Mac, the Missouri Mavericks wildly popular mascot.
Whether he’s skating across the ice, taunting the officials or mixing it up in the stands with kids – and kids at heart – Mac has become an icon at the Independence Events Center and a big reason the team has enjoyed 11 sell outs this season and been named the Franchise of the Year in the CHL the past three seasons.
It wasn’t always that way.
Until the personable Lee’s Summit West High School grad stepped in and took Mac by the reins, the team mascot was close to leaving the barn and looking for a new place to call home.
“Let’s put it this way,” Mavericks president Brent Thiessen said, “after the first season, we nearly put Mac out to pasture. We had a mascot that couldn’t skate, didn’t really interact with the fans and came very close to retirement after one season.
“Then, we met Andrew. And, oh my goodness, what a change. He has made Mac as popular as any mascot in the CHL. He has made Mac a brand of its own – the fans love him, the players love him, everyone loves Mac.”
Two of Mac’s biggest fans are 5-year-old Maddx and 3-year-old Jett, the young sons of CHL MVP and scoring champion Sebastien Thinel.
“If Mac’s around after a game, they don’t even come to see me,” Thinel said, grinning. “They love Mac.
Mac is so good with the kids and you see him during the game, getting the fans all excited. He’s the best mascot I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them.”
This past season, Mac was honored as the top mascot in the CHL – an honor that was long overdue according to Thiessen.
“He’s the best. Period,” Thiessen said. “We want fans to come to a game and enjoy the overall experience, and Mac is a big part of that.”
Whether he’s Mac Daddy, the ultra-cool dancer who woos members of the team spirit squad, The Fillys; or Mac Attack, who rallies the fans in those nail-biting thrillers; or Mac-Nificent the Magician, who always manages to slam a cake into the face of an obnoxious fan who just happens to be wearing an opponent’s jersey – he’s the mascot with the biggest following in the league.
Fans wear Mac jerseys, T-shirts and mane-themed head gear. They line up hours before the game to make sure they get one of his bobble heads and he has posed for more photos than Kate Upton and Gisele Bundchen combined.
“You get a little embarrassed when Mac’s jersey sells for more than yours at the post-game auctions,” quipped one player, who requested anonymity. “But we understand it. Mac’s a big deal with the fans. They love him.”
Mac’s tail began many years ago in a Lee’s Summit elementary school assembly as Kansas City Chiefs mascot KC Wolf entertained a gym full of wide-eyed youngsters.
“Dan Meers, one of the best mascots in the country, came to visit my elementary school. He ran in the room with his costume on and then took it off to speak to us about an educational message – don’t do drugs, read books, work hard, listen to your teacher and parents,” Johnson said, “but all I could remember from his presentation was that cool costume and how much fun it would be to be a mascot.”
Over the years, Johnson and Meers became friends.
“I stalked him,” Johnson said, laughing. “He just finally gave in.”
After three years of serving as the mascot at Lee’s Summit West, Mr. Titan, Johnson attended Northwest Missouri State University for his freshman year of college.
“I got a call from Dan during my time in Maryville and began working with him around town,” Johnson said.
Johnson moved back to the metro area, attended school at UMKC and, as they say in the movies, the rest is history.
He was soon part of community events involving KC Wolf, Kansas City Royals mascot Slugger-r-r and Sporting KC’s Blue.
While Mac was not much of a skater his first season (the second year of the team), Johnson received personal lessons from former Mavericks’ standout Simon Watson.
“I’m actually pretty comfortable out on the ice now,” Johnson said. “I’ve worked hard at that because I want to be the best.”
“Over the years, I’ve been one of those guys KC Wolf chases and jumps on before a Chiefs game, and I’ve done some work with Slugger-r-r and the Royals, but my first love is Mac. I like to think of him as a character with character.
“This isn’t about me and it’s not about Mac. God blessed me with the talent to do what I do, so to God be the glory.
“I really feel blessed to be able to entertain and be creative for a living. I’m always trying to come up with new ideas, new routines and I know that every time Brent sees me walking down the hall to his office he’s thinking, ‘What’s this guy want now?’
“But he always agrees. He’s been my biggest supporter.”
He must be, because a tuxedo or superhero outfit that fits a horse can’t be cheap.
“We’ve dedicated a lot of resources to Mac and it has been worth every penny,” Thiessen said.