WIU live mascot Ray brings ‘more school spirit’

By AUDREY GNIECH, Guest Reporter

MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) – At the heart of the community of Western Illinois University and even the Macomb area is two local celebrities: Colonel Rock III and Colonel Rock IV, also known as Ray.

Colonel Rock III became WIU’s live mascot back in 2010 and came under the care of Joe Roselieb. 

“I often joke that it was harder to get the dog than my job because of the amount of interviewing I had to do,” Roselieb said.

Joe Roselieb, a WIU alum and director of residential and auxiliary services, credits his mentor John Biernbaum for bringing back a live rocky mascot back to WIU and getting his name put in to be Rocky’s person. 

“(There was) a really nice overhaul to Hanson Field, and there was a lot of excitement, and they just weren’t generating a lot of people coming to games, and school spirit just didn’t seem to be at the peak that it was,” Roselieb said. “And so George was like, ‘we need more school spirit.’ We just got this wonderful project done and we built it and they’re not coming. So what can we do to change that?”

Roselieb said the university found that having live mascots can help build school spirit and attract more people to athletic events on campus. Colonel Rock III has helped raise school spirit and bring positivity to the campus and community.

For the past 10 years, Roselieb and his wife Ketra Roselieb have helped to maintain the live mascot program and make it successful. 

While Roselieb may be the public face people see with the dogs, Ketra helps behind the scenes to help care for the Rocky’s. Ketra Roselieb described their roles in taking care of the dogs.

“Joe does all the public events and things like that, but there is quite a bit of care that these little boys need at home,” Ketra Roselieb said. “So I do certainly play that role more in house, not in the limelight.”

“Ketra’s a big part of that and helps me,” Joe Roselieb said. “Like on my way home, if we got a game at night, she’ll have them ready to go and get their jerseys packed up for me. On game days and for football, it’s a very busy day. She steps in.”

As their caretaker, Joe Roselieb trained Rocky and is still training Ray about how to be the best at their job as a mascot for the university 

“One of the big things I do with any pup I get in the first 30 days is they’ll meet someone or something new everyday,” he said.

Ray was introduced in 2018 as Colonel Rock III transitions into retirement. 

“When Ray came into it, it was we had to do it all over again,” he said. “Everything I had built for over eight years I had to try and re-emulate that.”

With COVID-19, Ray’s training to take up the mantle of Rocky has been greatly effected.

“This year’s been extremely difficult because, especially in year two, this was a big year for him to really grasp that concept of what he does so that he understands,” he said. “I could tell Rocky like to this day, if we do this on this day if we were at Western Hall, and I had him in my truck and I opened that door, I know exactly what door he goes into when we open that door. He turns left, immediately, if we’re going into the office space to hang out for a bite and prep. Teaching Ray those things has been difficult and with COVID. It’s been even harder because we have missed an entire year of this, and so I’m quite nervous about that and how we are going to come back from some of that.”

Luckily, a lot of their training comes from understanding their dog’s temperament and creating the game day and event atmosphere the dogs will encounter. Joe and Ketra Roselieb’s goal is to prepare the dogs and learn more about their behavior.

While Ray may not be able to go to events this year, Ketra and Joe Roselieb have helped to make sure Ray has a chance to spread school spirit digitally on social media platforms where Rocky and Ray are pictured in the community, promoting campus events and even a Mascot Olympic competition.

A mission that Joe Roselieb has when it comes to Rocky and Ray is making sure they are more than just a novelty. He does not just want the dogs to be at events for a photo shoot, but rather that they can participate in the event and help its cause, whether it’s raising money for a group or for philanthropic causes. 

Joe Roselieb has also helped to create a monument behind the University Union on campus to help honor past mascots and maintain the legacy that lives on with Colonel Rock III and Ray.