VALDOSTA -- Move over Spiderman, step aside Superman. Valdosta State University has a new "superhero" to add to the lineup, and his name is Whit Chappell.

Known on campus as the university's director of Annual Giving, Chappell threw caution to the wind Saturday night in Carrollton, thwarting the University of West Georgia Braves' attempts to "behead" Blaze, the VSU Blazers' mascot.

And it all went down right about halftime.

Chappell had escaped to his car, a much warmer alternative to the cold and drizzly climate found at Grisham Stadium, when he noticed someone lurking in the woods.

"I saw a person in the woods walking towards the stadium," Chappell said. "He was wearing a white T-shirt, a pair of gym shorts, and a ski mask. And it was freezing outside. I became suspicious, so I just watched him."

Things escalated when he watched the "suspicious character" climb over the stadium's fence instead of entering through the open gate.

"I got out of my car at that point and I walked back inside the stadium area," Chappell said. "That's when I saw him crouched down under the stands looking out at something. I had no idea what was going on with this person. What he was doing just didn't look normal."

A Blazer fan and long-time member of the VSU family, Chappell said he became concerned for the safety of everyone in the immediate area -- players, fans, cheerleaders, band members, etc. Trying to convince himself that nothing bad could happen in Carrollton, Chappell instead recalled all the devastating events of the recent past -- the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sniper attacks, the Columbine shootings, a list that went on and on.

"None of these victims thought anything bad could happen to them either," he said.

So Chappell found help, including Valdosta State University's Director of Public Safety Scott Donor.

Chappell said Donor asked the individual who he was and what he was doing. His reply was that he was the unofficial West Georgia mascot on a mission to steal Blaze's head, Chappell said.

"Donor told him no and to leave the area," he said. "But instead of leaving the stadium through the gate, he once again jumped over the fence and ran through the woods. We watched him pick up some unknown object and disappear."

As law enforcement officials chased the "unofficial mascot," Chappell warned Blaze. Things ended peacefully with the apprehension of the individual, who turned out to be a member of the West Georgia University band, and with Blaze's head intact.

"They would have injured Blaze with this prank," Chappell said. "The rivalry between us and West Georgia is so big. However, we need to keep that in the athletic arena. We don't need it to spill over into the public arena where someone could get hurt."

A speechless Blaze indicated with a nod of his head that he has never been the object of an attempted unmasking before. And with a second nod of his head, Blaze indicated that Chappell is his new hero.

Donor was out of town until Monday and unavailable for comment. No other details regarding the suspect or what happened following his apprehension are known at this time.



To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.



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