The face of the Bullard Panthers will be on one of the largest stages ever, as Bullard High School senior Perry Burchfield will put on the suit of Morris the Panther for a performance during an upcoming college football bowl game.
With the recognition of All-American mascot that she earned while attending a cheerleading camp this summer, Burchfield will now make her way to the Sunshine State, where she will take part in a pre-game performance at the Citrus Bowl, scheduled for Monday, Jan. 1, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
“I’m really excited about being able to perform at the Citrus Bowl,” said Burchfield. “I am proud that I will be representing the Bullard Panthers and be able to shine a light on cheerleading here at Bullard ISD.”
During the performance, Burchfield will be joined by other All-American mascots from around the country prior to the game’s kickoff, which will feature the No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish against the No. 17 LSU Tigers.
The 2017-2018 school year marked the first year Burchfield had tried out to be a cheerleader while attending school at Bullard ISD. Despite not having experience prior, Burchfield decided to try out for mascot during her senior year.
“I wanted to try out to be the Panther mascot because I have been to all of the football games and I get super hyped anyways,” said Burchfield. “I didn’t know what being the mascot of a high school varsity cheerleading squad included, so I just thought I’d try out for it.”
Once she heard her name announced as the Panther mascot after competing in a try-out last spring, Burchfield said she felt that she became synonymous with the persona of the Bullard Panther mascot.
“I really feel like I grew into being Morris the Panther throughout the entire first semester this year,” said Burchfield. “Having the opportunity to perform at all of the pep rallies, games, and parades has been really fun to do, but the games have definitely been my favorite.”
Burchfield earned the title of being an All-American Mascot after another try-out, this time at the Universal Cheerleaders Association camp attended by the Bullard Panther varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders.
“I really didn’t know what being an All-American mascot was before I went to the camp,” said Burchfield. “However, I decided to try out and I actually was selected. When my mom told me all that the title included and that I was going to get to perform at the Citrus Bowl, I was like a little kid who was told they were going to Disney.”
Although he had no idea about being an All-American Mascot, Burchfield pursued the title relentlessly, even staying up the night before to create a skit she felt was worthy of the title.
“The night before the All-American auditions, I stayed up until almost 4 a.m., then woke up close to 6 a.m. in order to work on my skit and make sure I had it down,” said Burchfield. “I was determined to do this. I had help from my other cheerleaders, which was really great for the skit. I was really excited that I made it because it was because of the help I received from the entire team.”
According to Burchfield, her favorite part about being the Panther mascot during her senior year at BHS has been the opportunity to interact with young children at events.
“I’ve really enjoyed being about to meet a lot of little kids who have come up to me while I’m wearing the suit,” said Burchfield. “For instance, there were two little kids who asked me about coming to a play date, and they also ended up brining me flowers on Senior Night, and they didn’t even know I was a senior. That’s definitely been one of my favorite things about being the mascot, and I’ll always remember this experience because of things like that.”
When asked about being an All-American Mascot, Burchfield said the title had allowed her to feel big in her small hometown.
“I feel kind of famous,” said Burchfield. “A lot of the little kids I’ve had the chance to meet are looking up to me. I hope I’m able to show them that something like high school is just a small part of your life and to jump in and pursue new things as they come up.”
Burchfield said with her senior year now headed towards its second semester, she hopes to leave a legacy for the future mascots who will wear the Panther head.
“In retrospect, I actually wish I had tried out to be the mascot sooner than I did,” said Burchfield. “Being the mascot has encouraged me to be my goofy self in front of everyone, while also serving as a leader because the mascot is the face of the Panthers. I hope I’ll be able to leave a legacy of being able to cheer and pumped up for the Panthers.
After graduation, Burchfield said she plans to attend Tyler Junior College in hopes of becoming a physical education teacher for middle school ages.
Burchfield is the daughter of Shawn and Greg Gill.
The 2017 Citrus Bowl will be televised beginning at 12 p.m. Monday, Jan. 1, on ABC.