Hillsboro High School’s mascot — a Burro — isn’t like those at most other area schools.
For one, they’re not ferocious jungle cats, ravenous dogs or intimidating birds of prey, and they don’t have razor sharp claws, teeth or talons to ward off potential predators.
As Hillsboro senior defensive back Malique Fleming was quick to point out, however, Burros are hard-headed — an attribute that’s very much applicable to the football field.
“Stubborn,” Fleming said. “A burro is a donkey, and a donkey is stubborn. What I tell the guys is to go out there and play stubborn.”
Another distinct characteristic that sets Hillsboro’s Burros apart from most other high school mascots is that they’re not students dressed in a costume. They’re living breathing burros, and they’ve made appearances at each Hillsboro home football game since the 2012 season.
“I don’t know too much about the history of it all, but I think it’s pretty cool, and it kind of makes us stand out from other schools,” Hillsboro senior wide receiver Jay King said.
The Burro Lady
Hillsboro Parent Action Committee co-chair and mother of three Becky Sharpe doesn’t live on a farm. She doesn’t have a background of raising livestock, either.
She is, however, the one responsible for livening up Hillsboro’s mascot game.
“In a meeting about three or four years ago, I was just asking (former Hillsboro principal Terry Shrader) if there was anything I could do that could help the school,” said Sharpe, who owns and operates Collegiate Sports Data, an NCAA-approved scouting service located in Nashville. “He said, ‘You know, I’d love to get some live burros here.’”
In an unrelated work meeting, Sharpe mentioned the idea to a colleague, who just happened to have two particular donkeys in mind.
“He said, ‘I know two that need rescuing — a mom and baby that were just left in a field,’” Sharpe said. “Within a couple of weeks I had them in my backyard and started working on finding a field for them to live in.”
During the week, the two donkeys — 6-year-old mother Lou and 3-year-old Xote (as in Donkey-Xote, a spinoff of Don Quixote) — reside in a Brentwood field that belongs to family friends of Sharpe.
On Friday nights of Hillsboro home games, Sharpe and her husband, Michael — the man responsible for Xote’s clever name — transport the two mules to the school and trot them out of their trailer behind the north end zone.
“Originally I was just bringing them to open houses, and then I’d just have them sitting there before the game,” Sharpe said. “Then one of the football coaches asked me if I could train them to run out in front of the football team. I said, ‘Sure,’ and figured out how to do that.”
Running of the burros
Immediately prior to kickoff, Michael Sharpe leads Lou out to the 50-yard line while Becky keeps Xote on a harness in the end zone.
“The little boy is definitely a mama’s boy,” said Becky Sharpe. “I just release him and he runs straight to her … (the fans) love it.”
“We love the burros,” Hillsboro coach Craig Clayton said. “They can get a little wild every once in a while, but I think the players like it. My grandkids definitely do.”
More often than not, the running of the burros goes off without a hitch. There have been a few instances, like Hillsboro’s televised 2013 regular-season meeting with Antioch, where they’ve strayed from the game plan.
“The burro (Xote) got loose on TV, and they were dragging Becky down the field,” Clayton said.
Prior to the team’s matchup with Ravenwood in 2012, one of the animals defecated on the playing surface, which required an cleanup crew consisting of assistant coaches.
“One of our coaches got a plastic bag and worked on it,” Clayton said. “As soon as we got that done the sprinklers came on. It was like, ‘What else can happen?’”
The next chance for fans to see Lou and Xote in action will be Friday’s Region 6-5A matchup between Hillsboro and visiting Hendersonville at 7 p.m.
THE BURRO FILES
Coat: White with black spots