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Charlee Cougar - the fun face of CCCC

Click to enlarge Charlee Cougar - the fun face of CCCC

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Charlee Cougar is the readily recognized mascot for Central Carolina Community College at college ... (more)

Click to enlarge Charlee Cougar - the fun face of CCCC

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Charlee Cougar (right), Central Carolina Community College's mascot, joins CCCC Ambassador Jennifer ... (more)

Click to enlarge Charlee Cougar - the fun face of CCCC

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Miss North Carolina 2012, Arlie Honeycutt (left), of Garner, visited the Lee County Fair in September ... (more)

Click to enlarge Charlee Cougar - the fun face of CCCC

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Charlee Cougar (center), Central Carolina Community College's mascot, delights the children and college ... (more)

01.03.2013College & CommunityCollege GeneralSports

SANFORD - Clowning around, capering, and making people laugh are what Charlee Cougar, Central Carolina Community College's mascot, does best.

Charlee brings his high spirits not only to all the basketball games but also to other college and community events. He's there to add to the fun as well as to be the face (albeit a fun, furry one) of CCCC.

Inside the Cougar suit is a guy who is having as much fun as his audience: CCCC sophomore David Green.

"I enjoy being goofy," Green said with a smile. "It's a lot of fun. My favorite thing is when shy kids hide behind their mothers, I act like I'm afraid of them and then they laugh and start playing."

The fans love him at the games as he becomes a one-man pep squad. During half-time, kids from the stands come on the floor to shoot a few baskets against him - and he always makes sure they win.

Charlee Cougar made his first community appearance at the college's 50th Anniversary Kickoff celebration July 23, 2011. Since then, the big cat has been a regular at college and community happenings. Several students and staff members have donned the Charlee costume at times, but for most of the past year, Green has brought the Cougar to life.

As Charlee, he whips up the crowd's enthusiasm at the Cougars' games with cartwheels, fist pumps, teasing of the other team, or whatever adds to the spirit and fun of the event. He has also been a big hit at the college's 50th Anniversary celebrations, Lee County Fair, Sanford and Broadway Christmas parades, and other events. At CCCC's Christmas Tree Lighting, kids were eager to greet and have their photo taken with the frisky feline.

"I get to make a lot of people happy and I'm an ambassador for CCCC," Green said. "At the Lee County Fair, I rode all the rides. Kids were watching me. On the G-Force, I was 12 stories up and upside down, and they were all laughing at Charlee."

Those enjoying his antics don't know that there is another side to Green. At the fair, he played the nerf ball battle game with kids, all of whom wanted to be on his team. Everyone had a great time, but the kids could never figure out how Charlee was so accurate with his shots.

That accuracy came from a very different life experience: combat. Green is a combat-decorated veteran. Now just 23, he joined the Army in 2006, while still in high school in Ottawa, Kan. He saw combat as an artilleryman in Afghanistan in 2009. Green completed his enlistment in 2011 and now lives in Sanford, where he is a member of the National Guard Delta 1252 Armored Cavalry Unit.

The same day he got out of the Army, Aug. 19, he started classes at CCCC, majoring in Criminal Justice. He plans to continue his education, get a law degree, and become a criminal law attorney, possibly a prosecutor.

But, for now, he's having a blast being Charlee. The fact that the temperature can reach 125-degrees inside the suit doesn't bother him. He thanks his Middle East tour of duty for that.

"I flew into Kuwait at 1:30 a.m. and when I got off the plane, the prop was blowing at about 140-150 degrees," he said. "I kept walking away, but the temperature never went down. It was slightly cooler in Afghanistan, about 125-degrees."

Still, being in a suit for an extended period where the internal temperature can reach 125-degrees can have its downside.

"At the Lee County Fair, I went through three or four cans of deodorizing spray," he said, then added with a laugh, "No one wants to be close to a stinky cougar."

Mike Neal, CCCC Student Activities and Athletics director, said that Charlee has become a focal point for the college. A cougar has been the mascot image of the college since 1980, but there was no "real" cougar to cheer on school spirit and be a fun connection to the public.

In 2011, as CCCC approached its 50th Anniversary, CCCC Marketing and Public Affairs Director Marcie Dishman decided it was time for a real mascot to serve as the "visual identity" for the college. The cougar image came to life.

College employee Jill Gillette and graduate Margaret Grigg won the competition to name the mascot. Both suggested "Charlee," an acronym using the first three letters of the names of the counties the college serves: Chatham, Harnett, and Lee.

"We're all Cougars," Neal said. "It's great to have David as Charlee at the games and at so many events. Everybody smiles when they see him - it gives them a good feeling about the college."