By day, 21-year-old Matt Shultis is a mild-mannered architecture major at Northeastern University. But when the NU Huskies take the field, court or ice, he transforms into Paws, the Husky: six-and-half feet of fur, gyrations, pep and pacifism.
How did you get chosen to be Paws?
I’m a good skater, and I fit into the costume? Skating is important. Hockey is a big sport for us. I applied for the job through financial aid work study.
What’s it like to inhabit Paws?
Nobody on campus knows I’m the man behind the suit. When I throw on the suit, it’s like I’m Batman or something. Like, suddenly everybody wants to meet me. It’s a secret identity. I feel like I can do almost anything and not be embarrassed.
Do you feel you’re an upgrade from King Husky, the real live dog that Northeastern trots out for some events?
I’d say so. Sure, you’re allowed to like go up and pet the dog. But the dog can’t throw T-shirts into the stands.
Are there any downsides to donning the Husky head?
Definitely. People mess with you. Paws has this like huge tongue hanging out of his mouth. People come up and like grab it, yank on it, whatever. Then there’s the opposing team’s fans. It’s ridiculous that some people get that angry at a mascot. But you can’t do anything. You just have to walk away. I have a bodyguard that escorts me everywhere.
Do you have a rival mascot?
Rhett, [Boston University’s] Terrier.
Do you ever fight at center ice or court?
We don’t do that anymore. The fans get a little too riled up. When we did, it was choreographed. If a mascot fight gets ugly, it winds up on “Not Top Ten” on SportsCenter. No school wants that.