Before each athletic competition, Illinois State student-athletes touch “The Battle Bird,” a bronze likeness of the Redbird logo. The ceremony signifies a dedication to Illinois State and a common bond to the school’s other student-athletes, past and present.
The sculpture was created by ISU alum and Bloomington resident Rick Harney and was unveiled Oct. 21, 2000, before the Redbirds hosted Prairie View A&M in football.
In August, new Redbird student-athletes take a torch-guided tour through some of the historic landmarks of the campus to learn the proud heritage of Illinois State, athletically and beyond. The culmination of the evening is when the new Redbirds receive half of a medallion. They receive the other half on the night of their senior banquet. The inscription on the medallion, which also features the Redbird logo, is a phrase from the fight song, “To this emblem we’ll be true.”
“Go you Redbirds onto battle! Fight for ISU. Raise the banner, Red and White; to this emblem we’ll be true. So let us cheer the Redbirds on to victory! Every voice proclaim: We’ve got the fight! We’ve got the might! Let’s win this game!”
After a Redbird victory, the student-athletes sing the fight song to the student section at home games.
The fight song was written by Kenyon S. Fletcher, formerly a teacher in industrial technology, and apparently the band director. It is believed he composed the song in 1932.
In 1923, athletics director Clifford E. “Pop” Horton and Pantagraph sports editor Fred Young collaborated to change the nickname from “Teachers.” Horton wanted “Cardinals” because the colors were cardinal red and white (set in 1895-96). Young changed the nickname to avoid confusions with the St. Louis Cardinals. Current logos are black, Pantone 186 (red), and Pantone 108 (yellow) and white. Coincidentally, the cardinal is Illinois’ state bird.
From when Reggie’s great-grandfather first started showing up to games in the late 1960s up until now, four generations of the Redbird mascot have had the pleasure of helping cheer on ISU to victory. However, it wasn’t until September 5, 1981 that Reggie became known as “Reggie” to his ISU fans, when he was coined “Reggie Redbird” by the Junior Redbird Club after baseball great, Reggie Jackson.