Photo Provided by Sam Osakue
The echoing shout of orange and black checkered fans. The flash of pompoms and toothy grins. The blur of movement on a fresh-cut field. To many, these images are game day staples.
To Sam Osakue, however, they mean something more. They mean home.
A junior and faithful member of the Mercer Maniacs, Osakue is the guy at the football games who is cheering when it seems most everyone else has stopped. The guy who is high-fiving everyone within reach after a touchdown. The guy chanting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” — perhaps a tad louder than the others. He prides himself on his ability to rally fans together even when it seems most difficult.
Because of this, Osakue has been dubbed “Hype Man Sam”—a nickname first used by one of his close friends. Now, however, Osakue says he has started to hear the name from people he doesn’t know. Not that that’s a bad thing, he says.
“I like the name and the personality [that comes] with it,” Osakue said. “I feel like it just comes from my energy, my electricity.”
But for Osakue, his persona isn’t just about getting involved. It’s about finding a space where he’s understood.
Osakue was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD as a child. A diagnosis other kids his age couldn’t really comprehend.
“I got bullied a lot, especially in elementary and middle school. It was tough,” Osakue said. “I just felt . . . lonely. I felt like I needed a place to express myself.”
For Osakue, becoming involved in the student section at games was like a light switch turning on.
In high school, he was the mascot and his peers voted him “Most Spirited” during his senior year. Osakue carried that spirit with him when he moved away to college.
Now, he’s heavily involved with the Mercer Maniacs. He said that being a part of the college game day atmosphere is a feeling that not much else compares to.
“I love to dance and get us and the players excited. I love painting up, too. It’s just fun,” Osakue said. “It has really brought me joy, in a way.”
Another thing about “Hype Man Sam”? He never gives up.
“If you remember those old Energizer bunny commercials, that’s basically Sam,” said Thomas Norton, president of the Mercer Maniacs. “He never slows down and is always all-in for the games. He generally keeps the energy going and is always ready to hype up everyone around him.”
In fact, Osakue believes that “hyping people up” at games is his what he’s meant to do.
“My purpose is to get everyone else to get loud . . . to make noise, hit some stuff. It’s almost like a movie,” said Osakue. “Sometimes I feel like I’m Star Lord from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ He’s just got that energy and that humor.”
Before embracing his inner fan, Osakue said he felt isolated from society and unable to express himself. Today, he thinks differently.
“Now, I kind of feel like it’s okay to be different,” Osakue said