WHO IS FRITZ???
Few people know the true story of how Saint Leo University became the “Home of the Lions” but it wasn’t until the Spring of 2010 that the chronicles were found during the excavation of the land designated for the construction of the new College of Business. Beneath the School of Business, a labyrinth of catacombs were found connecting various areas of campus… all leading to the Abbey Church. While exploring the catacombs, in the area located directly under St. Francis Hall, a large leather bound book was found and quickly delivered to the President’s Office for further inspection. It was declared official, that the document outlined the ancestry of our mascot as we know him today. The first entry was written by Father Charles Mohr:
“November 11, 1889: Today, after morning prayer, I decided to go for a walk in the Grotto and as I reflected heavily on my thoughts, I heard a rustling amongst the palm fronds. As I kneeled down for a closer look, and much to my surprise, I discovered a tiny little beast covered in imperial cloths of green and gold. A fearless yet timid lion cub clumsily appeared from underneath. Not knowing how this creature came to be in our town of Saint Leo, and not caring, I gave praise to God, stretched out my hand, pet him on the head… and called him Fritz.”
The manuscript detailed Fritz’s lineage, lions who came after him and their stories. It described lessons of courage learned in the late 1930’s through the teachings of Fr. Peter Sweisgood, known as the zealous defender of lions. It even contained the original Time magazine advertisement published in 1967 with then President Stephen Herrmann holding a young Fritz cub with the tagline “It’s taken us 78 years to award our first degrees… but did you ever have a lion by the tail?”
Stories of the last lion documented in the book was that of Fritz from the 1970’s who lived outside of what we now know as deChantal Hall, on the platform that the Greeks term their Unity Wall. At the time it was encaged, of course, and Fritz lived there for several years before one night, he disappeared… without a trace. According to the manuscripts, Campus Safety examined the cage to see if perhaps the students were playing a prank and kidnapped Fritz for the night, but concluded that just as the first Fritz appeared in 1889 without explanation, this Fritz had vanished.
Since then, students have reported sightings of Fritz on and around campus, even as far as Ralph’s. It has been rumored that he lives in “The Predator,” the valley of lost balls that runs adjacent to the soccer/lacrosse field and that some nights during practice, student athletes are startled by his ferocious roar. Others swear that they’ve seen Fritz crouched in the tall grasses that border Lake Jovita, guarding the campus from any unwelcomed visitors. Still other accounts witness Fritz in the shadows of the Grotto… the location of his origin. Of all these sightings, none have ever been validated, that is until he returned back home in the Fall of 2011...