COLUMBIA, S.C. (WJBF) – North Augusta native and recent University of South Carolina graduate Sarah Sylvester has created a buzz on social media after revealing herself as the school’s mascot at her recent graduation ceremony.

Before the big reveal, many of her friends just knew her as Sarah – the biomedical engineering student with an outgoing personality. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Sarah is sharing her experience of being USC’s lead mascot – a.k.a ‘Cocky.’

I sat down with Cocky herself on Thursday to learn about what went into keeping the University’s best-kept secret.

“I always knew I wanted to go to USC,” Sarah said. “My mom went here, my sister went here, [I] grew up not far from here, and so I was always coming up and hanging around.”

Sarah knew she wanted to be Cocky after watching the mascot at sporting events during her freshman year.

“I was like ‘I kinda want to do that and figure out how to do that,” she said. “I remember we got a letter in the mail from the school, it was just like a random letter and it said ‘be cocky’ or something like that. It had nothing to do with the actual mascot, it was just a play on words, but I looked at my mom and was like ‘I’m gonna do that.’”

After overcoming numerous challenges – like the COVID-19 shutdown and getting in contact with someone for a tryout, she finally landed the role her junior year.

“If there’s something I want to do, I’m gonna do it, figure it out and make it happen,” Sarah said. “And I guess that’s how I got through my degree here also.”

Sarah said balancing being Cocky and earning a challenging degree was hard, but her teachers were supportive.

“I was able to talk to each of them and explain the situation, and they were super, super cool about it, understanding,” she said. “They thought it was super awesome they had a cocky in their program.”

Sarah had so many experiences because of the opportunity, like ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and winning 5th place at a collegiate mascot competition in Daytona Beach.

And at graduation, she got to give one final performance and show all of the students who’s been representing their school for the past two years.

“At that moment I was still a little nervous, but once it started I was like, ‘No more. Cocky mode. Cannot be nervous, cannot be scared,'” Sarah said. “And I went like full force sprinting around, and afterward I was like, ‘I have no idea what I just did.’”

She said although it’s bittersweet passing down her Cocky feet – she hopes to inspire others who want to follow in her footsteps.

“I was thrown in the deep end and I felt like I have no idea what I’m doing, and I made it. And if you really have that passion and that love for it, then that will show and you can do anything you want,” she said. “I was just a random girl in engineering and I was like ‘I’m gonna do that one day,’ and here we are.”

Sarah is already working toward getting her master’s degree in biomedical engineering and hopes to one day help others by designing and creating medical devices.

But, no matter where she goes in life, a part of her will always be that big red bird that fans know and love.