Herky the Hornet: 70 years at Sac State


Matthew Dyer

Herky the Hornet leads the football team onto the field against Western Oregon on Sept. 3, 2016. (Photo by Matthew Dyer)

Carlo Marzan

Herky the Hornet is the ever-present mascot for Sacramento State and has represented the school for the past 70 years.

But what does Herky mean for those who don the costume of the muscular wasp?

The hornet and the elk were the two original ideas for the school’s mascot, but the latter was not considered aggressive enough by school officials. So on Dec. 5, 1947, Herky the Hornet was born.

There are theories and folklore as to what “Herky” stands for. Some say it’s short for Hercules, the mythical Greek hero. Others have said he’s named after the USS Hercules, which saw combat in World War II. However, Sac State Athletics Director of Marketing and Promotion Adam Primas said he isn’t sure if any of these ideas are true.

“People say, ‘It’s folktale, it’s legend,’ I don’t correct them,” Primas said. “But when I go out officially with Herky, I don’t say that because I still don’t know how he was named for sure.”

Herky hasn’t always appeared the way he does now and has gone through many different looks over the decades. He has been a cheerleader, played various sports for the school and even split into a male and female Herky during the 1950s.

“The look has changed throughout the years, but the people that give Herky life have always kept their identity separate from Herky,” Primas said. “To see how it has been passed on as just Herky to whenever that era thought Herky was, it’s been awesome.”

Upon meeting Herky, Primas — who has been the mascot’s supervisor for the last 11 years — said he knew he needed an upgrade and gave him the look he has today.

Thanks to Primas and the athletic department, Herky was updated with green and gold colors to go along with bigger biceps and abs.

The current person who wears the Herky outfit, a male student on campus, is approaching six years in the hornet costume. The previous iteration of Herky was a dancer who performed full dance routines during football games and other campus events.

While the current Herky isn’t as dance-enabled as the previous one, Primas said he is more powerful.

“Football games (are) the most fun because you kind of just run around (and) do whatever,” Herky said on the condition of anonymity. “It’s always great when kids run up to you and give you hugs — you just melt everybody’s hearts.”

There is no specific portrayal of what Herky is. The school’s mascot is whatever the students see in him.

“I mean, Herky is kind of who you want him to be,” Herky said. “If there’s some way he can be represented in the representation of the student body, don’t be afraid to think it — he’s for everybody.”