As the rich and famous stream into this glamorous city for Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game, 22-year-old Bryce Burton – all 5-feet-7, 145 pounds of him – just might be the biggest celebrity in South Beach the next few days.
As No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama prepare to battle for college football’s biggest prize, Burton is in demand as the leprechaun mascot for the Fighting Irish.
“We’ve been so busy,” the Notre Dame senior said between events Friday afternoon. “We’re getting ready to go visit The Covenant House right now.”
Media appearances, alumni parties, hospital visits and pep rallies have Burton and the rest of the Notre Dame cheerleaders booked solid for the next three days. Such is the life when you put on the little green suit and become one of the most recognizable mascots in all of sport.
“I take an untold amount of photographs, especially on campus during a game day,” Burton said. “I definitely get a lot of attention.”
When Burton is in character he is legitimately famous. Those countless snapshots of him often end up as Facebook profile pictures, family Christmas cards and desk photographs in a stranger’s office.
He realized how unique the job was at his first appearance at the former College Football Hall of Fame in downtown South Bend two years ago.
“That day both Rudy and Jon Gruden asked me to take a picture with them,” Burton said. “I thought that was pretty funny.”
“Rudy,” of course, is Daniel Ruettiger, a former Notre Dame walk-on who inspired the iconic 1993 sports movie, “Rudy.” Gruden is a former NFL coach who is now a top NFL analyst for ESPN. He coached the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title in 2002.
Burton grew up in southern Indiana and played running back for the Newburgh High School football team. He was a Notre Dame fan, but was denied admission as a freshman. After a year at Indiana University he was able to transfer to Notre Dame for his sophomore year.