Kyle Cashin was pretty sure the footwear he chose to wear to Commencement would turn heads. Bright yellow with giant talons, his shoes stood out in the crowd among the thousands of Montclair State University graduates.
What he didn’t count on was the faculty and students who came up to him to say, “Thank you for your service.”
Cashin was among the members of the spirited Team Rocky who turn up at about 300 different college and athletic events – and who keep their identities secret until Commencement, when by tradition the graduating seniors wear Rocky’s shoes to make the “big reveal.”
Cashin kept a running Twitter thread during the Commencement ceremonies on May 20 to record reactions as he walked past tailgate parties in the stadium parking lot pre-ceremony and as the music swelled when entering the giant MetLife.
“May I ask why you decided to wear those?” asked a fellow graduate unaware of the Rocky tradition. ”They didn’t know why I was wearing the feet,” Cashin recalls, laughing. “They just thought I was wearing shoes.”
Cashin launched a Facebook album, Rocky & Me, where he has posted more than 1,000 photos of all the “times I was Rocky and you had no idea,” tagging the friends who posed with him on numerous occasions during their college days.
“People made assumptions I was Rocky since I was super involved on campus, and I would say, ‘totally not.’ Then at Commencement, people were like, ‘oh my, you’re wearing the feet. I knew it all along. You told me I was wrong.’ And I’m like, ‘yeah, well, that’s how it works.’”
Cashin will be filling those big shoes one last time on June 3 at the Convocation ceremony for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, where he will receive a degree in History.
Congratulations – and thank you for your service – to all the Team Rocky graduates: Sarah Waffenfeld, Nick Parente, Rachel Sandor and Sean Risch (who made his own big reveal on the television series The College Tour, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video and other channels).