Caroline Miller quickly zips up the back of her Riot costume, the eagle mascot for Carrollwood Day School. She's rushing to get ready for the homecoming pep rally.
She slips into her eagle claw shoes and pulls on her black gloves. Finally, she puts the eagle head on, looking at herself in the mirror one last time before heading out.
"I became the mascot after having danced for seven years. I really love dancing. It's been one of my hobbies for a while," she said. "When (performing arts teacher) Ms. Jaime Giangrande-Holcom was asking around to see who would want to do it, I told her I wanted it."
It's not easy being a mascot. There's limited visibility. It can be extremely hot in Florida in early fall, and every other person wants to know who is inside the costume.
Caroline goes onto the field for 20 minutes at a time, taking a break to wipe the sweat from her forehead before going back out to greet young fans at the game.
"It's almost like my alter ego," she says. "I get to mess with people I normally don't talk to. I like being able to let go and not worry about anything. You can just open up and that's really nice."
Last Friday wasn't an ordinary homecoming football game for Caroline. As a senior, this marked her last game as Riot. As she realized this would be her last time in the suit, she stayed in the costume for the entire afternoon, even when she didn't have to.
"It's really sad," she said. "I have to pass the mask down now."
Do you have an idea that you would like to see featured in "More Than a Game"? Eve Edelheit can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3309.