NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mountaineer Mascot Michael Garcia got the opportunity of a lifetime Wednesday night when country music star and West Virginia native Brad Paisley invited a host of NCAA mascots to the Academy of Country Music Awards (ACMA’s) to join him on stage as he performed the hit song Country Nation.
“It was a cool idea that I could perform in front of all these performers,” said Garcia. “All these big name people all in one place, and I didn’t just get to be there, I was actually part of the show with Brad (Paisley) and everyone else (mascots) from all over the country. It was a really neat experience.”
Paisley, who also hosted the show alongside Carrie Underwood, didn’t wear his West Virginia Mountaineer football jersey this time around (like he did in the music video), but he did bring along a mascot of himself who indeed wore the old gold and blue on stage.
“I think it’s really cool that Brad is putting on for his state,” Garcia said. “He’s from West Virginia and I’ve talked to him before and he’s so proud of where he’s from and that’s his way of showing everyone. He invited me there and he invited Marco (the Marshall University mascot) there… It shows that he prioritizes us.”
While at the show, Garcia spent most of the night preparing to go on stage with the other mascots. But, he did run into a few of his favorite celebrities for just a brief moment including Justin Timberlake, who mistook him for the Tennessee Volunteer.
“I got to say hi to Justin Timberlake,” he said. “I made eye contact with him and he said hello. Then he said, “Are you the Volunteer?” and I said, “No, I’m the Mountaineer but you were close!” and he was really nice.”
He also ran into Steven Tyler, who recognized the raccoon-tail hat and buckskins. “He called me Davie (Crockett) and I said hello,” Garcia said.
Since the Mountaineer is a human mascot, Garcia’s uniform allows his face to remain uncovered giving him the ability to speak unlike the other mascots.
“You have this big group of about 45 mascots and I’m the only one that could really talk, so it was a really neat experience just kind of being able to interact with some of those people,” he said.
Now that the show is over, Garcia says it’s time to get back to business in Morgantown, especially with a basketball exhibition this Friday and a football game against Texas Tech on Saturday.
“It’s always good when these Country Roads can take you home,” he said, while in the process of making the eight-hour drive back to Morgantown. “We’ve got a lot, still, to accomplish. This is a cool thing that a lot of Mountaineer (mascots) have not been able to do but when I put those buckskins on Saturday, it’s all business and I’m ready to rock and roll.”