Meet the costumed characters of the A&M crowd

Agricultural economics junior Jacob Bush and sport management sophomore Sam Stovall read the paper before Texas A&Ms game against Arkansas at Reed Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.
Agricultural economics junior Jacob Bush and sport management sophomore Sam Stovall read the paper before Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Reed Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.
Photo by Chris Swann

Four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, George Washington, Oscar the Grouch and a banana walk into Reed Arena.

It’s not the start to the weirdest “walks into a bar” joke ever conceived. This one is real.

All seven characters are a few of the costume-clad students who have been popping up in the crowds of Texas A&M athletic events — and elsewhere on campus and social media — over the past several months.

So what possessed these figures to ditch the standard maroon and white for their own menagerie of outfits?

Origin stories

Kinesiology class of 2023 Yakob Dye — better known as Black George Washington — is an entertainer at heart.

“I have one goal with it, and that’s to make people smile and happy,” Dye said. “If everybody is laughing and everybody thinks it’s something awesome that they want to see again, that’s all that I care about. I don’t care how many views I get or how many likes it gets; I just want people to be happy.”

Dye’s Black George Washington character wasn’t his first costume. That honor belongs to a Buddy the Elf outfit he wore to the Halloween football game in 2022.

But Dye thought he could top that the next year with a group costume consisting of him and his friends all wearing colonial outfits.

“My other two buddies backed out last minute, so it was just me, and I had already ordered the George Washington costume so I was like, ‘I still gotta go. I gotta make the most of it,’” Dye said. “I go to the football game against South Carolina. And it was an 11 a.m. game, hot, muggy, out there in the George Washington costume. As soon as I get out of the car and start walking to the game, everybody just starts laughing. And they just started to have these amazing reactions.”

Black George Washington wasn’t the only character to begin their story at Kyle Field — agricultural economics junior Jacob Bush’s Banana Man also spawned when Bush decided to wear a banana costume to a football game on a whim.

But along with the other characters, Bush has been taking things far beyond football lately.

“This year I decided, it’s 2024, it’s time to grow,” Bush said. “It’s the year to build relationships and just be out there, put myself out there and just be uncomfortable and be okay with that. So I decided to bring it back.”

Part of Bush’s relationship building involves crossovers with other characters, including the newest of the group: the Turtles of Reed, a group of four students in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes.

Sport management sophomore Sam Stovall — the Leonardo of the group — said they wanted to have some fun and differentiate themselves from A&M’s other characters by doing a group costume.

“It started off as pretty much just a way to have fun,” Stovall said. “But as the season went on, it slowly became trying to make the games more enjoyable for everybody else … Just making sure that kids enjoy themselves more so they want to come back to later games and experience A&M basketball with us.”

Fans celebrate with Texas A&M Aggies guard Jace Carter (0) during Texas A&M’s game against Florida on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion) (Photo by Ishika Samant)

After making their debut at the men’s basketball game against Florida on Feb. 3, the Turtles aim to become a palpable presence at Reed Arena and other A&M athletic events in the future.

“Like, ‘OK, cool, Aggie basketball, that means the Turtles are going to be there,’” Stovall said. “… In terms of the future of the Turtles, in general, I just want to be more fan engaging and an inspiration for people to come to games.”

Social media magic

One way the characters have become a presence on campus is through social media. Bush (@bananatamu), Dye (@blackgeorgewashingtonn) and Stovall (turtles_of_reed) all operate active Instagram accounts for their personas.

“That’s actually turned into something bigger than I thought it would be,” Dye said. “With Barstool [Texas A&M] reposting a lot of stuff, Red Cup Aggies reposting a lot of it, a lot of eyes have seen that. And it’s good. It’s not something that I take too seriously. It’s just, ‘Hey, if you want to laugh, go to this page.’”

That’s been one of the ways people have been able to discover Dye’s work, which has led to some unexpected opportunities.

“I’ve had people reach out to me about being on some TV shows and auditioning for certain roles,” Dye said. “I’ve had people ask if I could come to a graduation party and kind of be there with them and make people laugh.”

Bush has seen his Banana Man persona’s social media accounts affect his own personal online presence.

“I’ve struggled in the past with posting on my normal account,” Bush said. “It’s hard for me to find a picture that I like to post. But I’ve just forced myself [to post] with @bananatamu. Just to post fun things that I like, and being okay with that … building that confidence, even on social media, has been pretty big.”

Even if I’m the black sheep in the crowd, I’m still fine with just being who I am.

— Agricultural economics junior Jacob Bush

That’s not the only way these characters have affected these students’ lives. They’re seeing gains even when they’re not wearing the costumes.

Costumes and confidence

Stovall doesn’t just act differently when he becomes one of the Turtles — he feels different, too.

“It helps me become a new person,” Stovall said. “Whenever I put the costume on, I care less and less about what people think.”

While that release of inhibitions that comes with donning the Turtle gear leads to a few more chirps at the visitor’s benches than normal, it’s also led to personal and career growth that Stovall himself didn’t initially expect.

“It’s made me a better friend, weirdly enough,” Stovall said. “It actually helped me professionally as well, with social media marketing, organizational skills. It’s really helped me do that personally.”

Bush has become more extroverted, he says, even when he’s not playing the Banana Man character.

“I’ve always been pretty shy as a person,” Bush said. “Not unconfident, but I don’t put myself out there enough. But ever since I started going to games and just being the banana guy in the crowd, I’m more confident to speak to other people and just speak my mind and just do things and be okay with it. Even if I’m the black sheep in the crowd, I’m still fine with just being who I am.”

Those benefits have changed Stovall’s motivations for bringing out the Turtles. While it originally started as a group of guys just having fun, he says it’s become more than that now.

“I want people to do it because I want them to inspire kids and young people who are scared to kind of step out of that shell,” Stovall said. “Last year, I had almost no friends because I always was just like, ‘OK, now that class is over I will never talk to them again.’ Now I’ve got friends from last semester that I still talk to who I have no other outlet for us to talk other than that one class last semester. It’s just, keep bringing people out of their shell and doing that for people who are scared to show who they are.”

Even as the students’ goals shift and change and as these characters make appearances at more and more events, Dye continues to be thankful for the response the characters have received and everything they’ve led to.

“Stuff like that makes me so happy that it’s becoming more than just Black George Washington in a costume,” Dye said. “People who want to see more want to know more. That just makes me happy to know that things like that can come from just a kid in college having fun and wanting to make people laugh, so it really is a blessing.”

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    Lariya WardApr 19, 2024 at 12:52 pm

    very structured story, a lot of good information