Mercer University alumnus Alex Preston once served as school mascot Toby the Bear. It was his job to fire up students at various sporting events.
But on Tuesday, Preston returned to campus sporting an Ole Miss bow tie.
Preston hasn’t switched allegiances. Rather, he was cast as an extra for a music video being shot on Mercer’s campus to serve as the introduction theme song to a new football show on the fledgling SEC Network.
“I feel like a little bit of a traitor,” Preston said. “No, I’m always representing for Mercer.”
The video is for the song “Take the Party,” by Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Randolph, who said he was a passionate University of Alabama fan, noted the song will soon be available for downloading on iTunes and other music platforms.
Rather than film the new promotional video in Athens; Tuscaloosa, Alabama or Baton Rouge, Louisiana, SEC Network producers were looking for a college campus that had the look of an SEC school but also was a neutral site.
Mercer fit the bill perfectly, officials said.
“We’re trying to have it be an SEC tailgate,” said Tim Horgan, the video’s director. “(Mercer is) representing all 14 schools. Particularly with the network being new, we wanted to be fair to everyone.”
Brett Austin, one of the video’s producers, said there won’t be anything in the final cut that identifies the campus at Mercer, such as the large bear in Cruz Plaza, where most of the primary shooting took place Tuesday.
“It feels like an SEC campus,” Austin said. “It’s got the red bricks, the white columns, the mature trees. This is outstanding. It’s a home run for us. Mercer has been very gracious hosts.”
Larry Brumley, Mercer’s chief of staff, watched the shoot Tuesday and said the video is a boon to the school even if Mercer won’t be identified.
“I’m happy our campus appealed to ESPN and the SEC Network,” he said. “I’m glad we were able to make it available this week, with summer classes having ended. This is a good week to do it. ... We’re happy to show off the campus.”
Actors such as Preston wore various hats, T-shirts and other clothing representing each of the 14 SEC schools, and the extras participated in various tailgating activities such as tossing around a football and playing cornhole.
Some of the fans at the shoot, however, were authentic SEC alumni. For example, the state’s Texas A&M fan club got word of the shoot, bringing out quite a few Aggie supporters.
“We heard there was a request for alumni,” said Henry Cummins, who lives in Macon. “We’re the real McCoy.”
“A&M has the biggest representation,” added John Montgomery from Cumming. “This is a beautiful campus with a lot of wide-open space.”
“SEC Nation” will be the network’s college football kickoff show, similar in style to ESPN’s “College Gameday.” The video is set to debut Aug. 28 as part of the premiere broadcast.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.