The bittersweet sting of leaving Notre Dame is softened a bit for John Doran (ACCT ’16) by the fact that he’ll be living not too far from South Bend after graduation. He’s accepted a job as a tax accountant at Deloitte in Chicago, where he interned last summer. He’ll be close enough to come back for games in the fall. Even more, he’s looking forward to blending into the crowd. That’s something that’s been hard for him to do for the past two years — seeing as he’s worn a kelly green cutaway and carried a shillelagh to all of the football games and all of the men’s basketball home games.
Not that Doran would have changed one minute of his run as the Fighting Irish leprechaun.
The idea to audition for leprechaun was planted by Doran’s high school buddies from Troy, New York. When they learned he had been accepted to Notre Dame, they pointed to his carrot-orange hair and told him he’d make the perfect leprechaun. Not only was his hair the right color, Doran’s athleticism, high energy and cheerful spirit also added to the recommendation.
When he first tried out in the spring of his sophomore year, he didn’t realize the mascot is part of the cheerleading team. That was good news, though. Doran had missed being part of a team. He practices with the squad four days a week.
He was never told explicitly what was being looked for in the candidates for mascot. But he believes one of the things that would have stood out about him is how he is genuine with his spirit. “I think that helps a lot,” he says. It also didn’t hurt that he is good at speaking in front of groups. “I don’t get fazed by that. I think they don’t want somebody to be awkward in a public setting because we do a lot of public speaking,” he says. “We do a pep rally in every town that we go to on the road. I’m the emcee. Sometimes there’s hundreds, even thousands, of people. How you present yourself is important.”
Doran hadn’t done much traveling before he came to Notre Dame. But as the mascot, he’s been everywhere. He ticks off places: “Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, Nashville, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New York City three times, Indianapolis four times, Pittsburgh twice, Philadelphia, Boston.”
In fact, before he ever appeared in front of a Notre Dame crowd as the leprechaun, he was sent on a bus with all of the other ACC mascots to a media day in Kentucky to celebrate Louisville joining the conference. Since the leprechaun’s face is always exposed, Doran got off pretty easy compared to the other mascots who had to pull on their costumes and big heads every time the bus stopped. He thought it was pretty funny every time the tour bus reached a destination, doors opened, and 15 mascots galumphed down the steps.
Doran also landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 2015 college preview issue, hamming it up with a take-no-prisoners scowl as he crouched, fists ready to duke it out and flanked by linebacker Jaylon Smith and offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley.
The hardest thing about being the leprechaun is never being able to get down in the mouth during a football game no matter what’s happening on the field. On the other hand, Doran says, “I guess having to smile all the time has turned me into a more optimistic person.”
In addition to two years of memories and a ton of Notre Dame hats, Doran also gets to keep his leprechaun suit. He doesn’t think he’ll ever wear it again, once he passes the shillelagh. He’s looking forward to coming to the games in his street clothes. And he’s one to always find a pot of gold at the end of his rainbow. Says he, “Some day my kids will have the best Halloween costume in the world.”