Camaraderie and excitement for college football have always been displayed through mascots. These oversized, inflatable characters bring the fan base together under one collective entity, seemingly personifying the crowd through one face. Herbie Husker has served as the powerful visage of the Cornhuskers for nearly 50 years, and on game days, every Husker fan has a little Herbie pride to flaunt.
But one essential element of gameday, the University of Nebraska Cornhusker Marching Band, has assumed the face of another, more furry mascot.
Joey is an 11-year-old part-poodle, part-cocker spaniel mix rescue dog owned by Katie Pace, a sophomore environmental restoration science major and a trumpet player in the band. Over the past year, the black and white furball has assumed the role of “band dog,” according to Mary Pace, Katie’s mother, as his outgoing and loving personality has touched the hearts of many members of the UNL marching band.
“I think he brings happiness to the band,” Mary said. “They definitely love him. Joey isn’t allowed in Memorial Stadium, but we’ll listen to them practice outside Memorial Stadium, and then we do all the pregame stuff over at Kimball Recital Hall. When coming out of Kimball, everyone pets Joey for good luck, then they’ll go do their thing. We just wanted to support the band and our daughter, and now everyone seems to be on board.”
Joey also has his own Instagram page, featuring pictures of his homemade band uniform — a slimming cape and tasseled hat — that was fashioned by Mary and her friends.
“We initially got [the Instagram page] so we could send Katie pictures of her puppy when she’s not here at the university,” Mary said. “But now almost the entire band follows it. It’s the craziest thing.”
Joey’s outgoing and personable aura leads to his overwhelming likability which comes out at Husker games, whether at home or on the road. According to Katie, Joey stays very relaxed when there is no one around, but when there’s love to be had, he’s quick to take advantage of a situation.
“[Joey] is a social butterfly. He loves attention,“ Katie said. “He loves coming to the games with how busy it can be. [He also] grew up with my parents playing music in the house all the time, so I think he really does enjoy listening to the band”
Joey’s name was inspired by the book “War Horse,” so the fighting spirit is in his nature. Katie explained how the Pace family became acquainted with the book and the movie.
“We had just seen the movie War Horse … and at the time [of his adoption], his name was Scooter, and I thought, ‘Oh, I think Joey is a better name.’ That was the name of the horse in the story,” she said.
According to Mary, Joey continues to be a source of comfort and motivation for everyone in the Cornhusker Marching Band. There’s no doubt that his legacy will live on like a furry paw print in the hearts of those who experience his infectious excitement every day.