CAM the Ram and Klawz the Bear are icons at their respective universities. Both have storied pasts that are part of school lore.

CAM, Colorado State University’s official mascot, is an acronym for Colorado A&M, the university’s previous name. In 1945, the Colorado Agricultural College student body voted to call themselves Rams, and the first mascot, a ram named Buck, made his debut at a basketball game against Denver University in January 1946. He was decorated with a blanket emblazoned with “Aggie Rams.”

In 1954, CAM became the official mascot, and in the 1980s a costumed mascot that was called Ramsey emerged; however, the name didn’t stick. These days, CAM the costumed mascot is the center of every game-day experience. There is also CAM, a domesticated sheep known as a Rambouillet, which is cared for by a group of student volunteers called the Ram Handlers. They are responsible for CAM’s daily care, training, and prepping him for public appearances. CAM and his Ram Handlers can be found on the sidelines at every home football game. The group also makes public appearances locally and regionally. Each year, about ten Ram Handlers are selected.

As many as three different students are chosen to be CAM the costumed mascot because there are so many commitments—more than 100 annually. But the identity of the person in the suit is a closely guarded secret, as CAM is not supposed to break character. “CAM is CAM,” says Dawn Burton, CSU head cheer coach and spirit coordinator.

While Klawz the bear isn’t overly intimidating, the fact is, University of Northern Colorado doesn’t have a tradition of fierce mascots. Back when UNC was known as Colorado State Teachers College, the university’s mascot was, well, a chalk-wielding educator. The Fighting Teachers gave way to the Bears in 1926, and the first mascot was an actual bear cub named Warden that kept escaping, according to school lore. Various costumed bears have rallied the university ever since, including Mr. Bear, introduced in 1970, and Bentley Bear, debuting in 1979. Early in the new millennium, UNC students were polled about a new name for the school mascot. Of the choices listed, “Klawz” was the most popular. Klawz made his first appearance at Nottingham Field on August 30, 2003.

Currently, annual auditions are held to select a person(s) to play the mascot. As with CSU’s CAM, the player inside is a mystery.

“Our students go through an interview process and a mini audition,” says Nicole Brush, assistant director of marketing. “We usually bring them out onto campus in the suit for a day to hand out promotional items (and) interact with students, and then if all goes well we schedule them for a soccer game to see how they do in a smaller game setting.”

The mascots get paid either minimum wage or a stipend through work-study, depending on each individual’s situation.