This year, the “Rocky Reveal” tradition returned to Commencement. Each year, graduating members of Team Rocky – the group of students who embody or support Montclair State’s energetic and extroverted mascot Rocky the Red Hawk – reveal themselves at the University’s Commencement by donning Rocky’s big yellow talons or oversized sneakers along with their caps and gowns.
Last year, with in-person graduation postponed until July, the 2020 graduating Rockys revealed themselves virtually through social media in May.
This year, the five graduating seniors who worked as mascots or handlers on Team Rocky returned to in-person unveilings, giving away their long-held secret identities over the course of multiple graduation ceremonies at Sprague Field. Team Rocky Class of 2021 includes Taylor Risley (Rocky), Nick Parente (Rocky), Casey Masterson (Rocky), Jasmine Metellus (Handler) and Danny Waffenfeld (Team Rocky Graduate Coordinator).
Masterson, a German major with minors in Creative Writing and Mythology, was thankful for the experience – though she “swore up and down” when she joined Team Rocky that she would never don the suit. Ultimately, Masterson appeared as both Rocky and his sister Roxy.
“It was such an invaluable experience in leadership and communication,” says Masterson. “I’d say the best part of being Rocky and Roxy is the feeling of joy people bring. Young people, old people, students, faculty, professors, anyone on campus goes nuts for Rocky. It’s so great being able to bring that feeling to others.” The downside? “When you first step out of the suit and go back into the same room you were in before, it feels like no one knows you’re there in comparison!”
Masterson, who writes fiction, is now working at the Upper Shores Library in Lavallette, New Jersey, and will begin a Master of Information program with a concentration in Library and Information Science at Rutgers University in the fall.
“Joining Team Rocky was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Taylor Risley, who majored in Television and Digital Media with a concentration in Television Production and minored in Business. Risley is now off to West Chester University to pursue a master’s in Higher Education Policy and Student Affairs while working as a graduate hall director.
“Not only did I find my forever friends and home away from home” with Team Rocky, says Risley, “but Rocky allowed me to be my true creative self and express myself in ways I never thought imaginable.”
Risley worked alongside the Montclair State Cheer team for the past two years, and was Rocky’s social media manager for the last year, creating Rocky’s TikTok page.
“I am a part of the Rocky Universe because I get to help make people smile on and off campus and spread Red Hawk pride as far as it can go,” says Risley. She shared her favorite memory as Rocky: “Definitely getting to high-five Dr. Cole for her final Commencement.”
Story by Staff Writer Mary Barr Mann
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