When a mascot retires, it rarely makes headlines due to the anonymity of the person underneath the costume. That wasn’t the case for Curtis Dvorak’s famous Jaxson de Ville, who received national attention after he announced his retirement from the role of the world’s best mascot.
Well-known for his dive bombs into EverBank Field on Jaguars game days to the song, “Give it All” by Rise Against, Dvorak spent 19 years giving his all to the fan base and the city he loves.
While majoring in public relations, Dvorak started out as the mascot for Virginia Tech’s Hokie Bird before joining the Jacksonville Jaguars to take on the character of Jaxson de Ville when the franchise first came to town. During a time when the NFL was more lenient of antics on the field, the character Dvorak developed became known worldwide with skits about Tiger Woods, the Steelers and bets with mascots across the league.
But after years of pushing the envelope, the NFL has moved to a more corporate-friendly environment that has placed more restrictions on mascots for fear of sponsorship backlash, largely due to Jaxson de Ville’s antics. Limited creativity, coupled with the physical demands of the job, led to Dvorak considering retirement when the Jaguars ownership changed in 2012.
“I knew we [the team] were gonna be bad. Like, historically bad. And I just felt obligated to stay with my family,” he said. “We were getting so much negatively from the national press that I just wanted to be the person to take those bullets for the fans.”
Dvorak stayed on, insistent that he provide some kind of entertainment for the fans. After all, he was a fan himself and went out of his way to make those in the stands feel important.
“The best part of this job has always been about the fans. During games, I didn’t see dollar signs, I looked out and saw the little kid who messaged me to wave to him in section 143,” Dvorak explained. “I saw the couple who was married with me standing in costume as the best man. I saw the family of Granny Jag, who was my number fan and I attended her funeral. I remember the man in section 201 who just lost his father that he attended Jaguar games with. At his wife’s request, I met the man in the stands at one of our games and he stood up and openly wept at the sight of me. He may not have known it, but I cried with him.
“The only relationship I had with these people was on game days. That’s what I looked up in the stands and saw. That’s what game day meant to me.”
Throughout the years, the physical demands of playing Jaxson increased and back spasms became more frequent. Though Dvorak never missed a game over his career, he was now in his 40s, but still wanted to continually push the limits.
“There are two ways a mascot does not want to go out: On a stretcher or in hiding. I had two stunts pulled from me in 2014 because I kept trying to push the envelope. Creatively, there’s nothing more I can do with this character and physically, I’m not going to be able to do the things I once did,” he said.
Ultimately, Dvorak decided to walk away from the mascot business because he’s always known he wanted to pursue a career in media.
Come this football season, Dvorak may no longer be the man inside the suit, but he’ll still be entertaining the fans by co-hosting FCN’s First Coast Living alongside Casey Black. In addition to TV, Dvorak will continue his regular antics through radio, TV appearances and his website, curtisdvorak.com.
“I’m going to do the same things I did for 19 years, I just won’t be covered in fur. I’m still going to make people laugh and show these people why I love this city and love this team. So, get in the circle, grab a can and here’s a key.”