How Lee Corso once used a live turkey on the field to motivate his players to win

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ESPN’s College GameDay crew paid a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday, and if there’s one major takeaway from the appearance, it’s the reminder that Lee Corso is a national treasure.

Corso, along with Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard, swapped stories on the late-night show, and the 82-year-old former coach shared how he started the famous tradition of making picks with different teams’ mascot heads.

“It started with Kirk. I was sitting at Ohio State, and Brutus walked by, and I said, ‘Kirk, you think you can get me that Brutus head? I’d put it on and then they’ll know who I pick, and I won’t have to say a word.’ … And the crowd when crazy, and then the truck went crazy, and ESPN went crazy. I said, ‘I think I’ve got a shtick here.’”

For his weekly picks, Corso also revealed that he doesn’t have both mascot heads for whichever game the ESPN crew is at ready to go. So if ESPN asks a team to borrow the mascot head, it knows ahead of time that Corso is picking it to win. But it’s a well-kept secret.

Corso celebrated his 300th pick this season and repeatedly out-did himself, particularly with cameos from live animals.

Speaking of, have you ever heard the story of the one time Corso used a real turkey to motivate his players?

It’s unclear exactly which team he was coaching at the time, but it sounds like it was after his time with Navy in the late 1960s. He shared that gem of a tale too.

“One time, I was playing a team on Thanksgiving Day, so I was thinking about it. We got beat by 50 points the week before by a team that this team beat. So I said, ‘Wow, I’ve gotta get them motivation.’ I thought of the Army-Navy (game), because I was at Navy – the goat. I said, ‘Ah, a turkey!’ So I got a turkey as a mascot, and so we walked on the field, the captains got the turkey on a leash. (Makes turkey sounds.)

“By the way, you ever try to lead a turkey? You can’t! And an official comes in and he says, ‘Coach, what’s that?’ I said, ‘That’s our mascot,’ and he said, ‘You’re crazy!’ And I said, ‘No I’m not.’ So we got to the game. This is a true story. …

“I call a timeout, and I said, ‘Team, you gotta help me. I promised that other coach he can have the turkey and kill him if he beat us.’ And they said, ‘We’ll win it for the turkey!’ We stopped them on the 2-yard line, and they carried me and the turkey off.”



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