Mascot's spirit lifts UNC cheerleaders at Final Four
Posted April 4, 2008 7:27 p.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2008 4:27 p.m. EDT
San Antonio — As the University of North Carolina prepares for the Final Four, the Tar Heel cheerleaders said they are supported by the spirit of a former member.
Jason Ray, who played the role of UNC mascot "Rameses" for three years, died after a car hit him during the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Ray was walking along a highway in Fort Lee, N.J., before UNC played its "Sweet Sixteen" game in nearby East Rutherford. He died two days later.
UNC cheerleaders dedicated this season to Ray, and a student who has assumed the Rameses role said he knows Ray will be watching the cheer squad and the basketball team this weekend.
"Jason was kind of over us, and he gave us the 'yes' and the 'no,'" said Tyler Treadaway, who learned how to be a mascot from Ray. "(His death) was hard. It was not only the passing of a good friend, (it was) the passing of a teacher, the passing of a teammate."
Treadaway said he couldn't put on the Rameses outfit for two weeks after Ray's death. A year later, he said he still feels the pain of Ray's loss.
"The first time I did, and up till anytime this weekend, every time I put on that head, I think of him," he said. "It's eerie, but it's also good because we think of what he would have done in the suit, how he would have acted outside of the suit. I think that's made us better people."
Ray was a fan favorite as Rameses, but Treadaway said he was more a of big brother to his fellow UNC cheerleaders.
"(Rameses was) not who he was to us. That was a part of him, (but) it was a small part of a much larger person. He was just a great guy," he said.