Of anyone at the Sugar Bowl, there is no doubt that Nick Wagner took the biggest hit.
Bur Wagner wasn’t catching a pass or running the ball. He’s a photographer for The Austin American-Statesman, and he was just trying to take a picture. Then this happened:
That’s him in the hat getting rammed by Bevo, the Texas Longhorns’ live mascot.
So, what’s it like when all that steer runs into you?
“In the moment, I didn’t feel much of anything other than his one horn in my back, and the other one kinda sucker punched me in the face,” Wagner told SB Nation after the game.
“I’m like, ‘OK, I know what’s going on, I better get moving.’ I turned around for a split second and saw him coming and said ‘yeah, it’s time to get out.’ But I felt distinctly his two horns and that’s about all I can remember.”
It was supposed to be a nice photo op between Georgia’s live bulldog mascot, Uga X, and Bevo XV.
“I caught wind that Uga was gonna come over and meet up, kinda like a made for TV moment,” Wagner said. “So I was just shooting Uga and his handlers putting on his jersey while he was still in his kennel. And then they took him out, and put him on the ground. I went down low to get a vantage shot of Uga walking around and then before I know it, I got horns coming up behind me.”
Uga and Bevo actually met for the first time a few days before the game, but the steer was in his trailer.
“We were trying to turn him around to take a picture, and he made a run for it,” said Patrick Dowell, a Texas senior and one of Bevo’s handlers. “He was just going to say hi.”
But for whatever reason, Bevo was a bit too excited. Ramming is out of character for the big guy. Longhorns are normally docile, despite the urban legend that Bevo is drugged. He’s notably chill around 100,000 people on fall Saturdays.
Earlier this season, Bevo did buck though. Wagner was there to capture it.
“They had pyrotechnics, and they went off right at the right time, and so he bucked,” Wagner said. “And the whole row of photographers started running because, heck, he’s a huge steer. But yeah, he’d never [rammed anyone] before. We always joke about it happening, but when it actually does it’s kinda crazy.”
Wagner has been around Bevo so much, this was the last thing he expected to happen.
Bevo pierced a hole in the signage covering the gates that formed his enclosure — and that type of gate is common when he’s not in Austin — but there was no telling that he’d full-on charge.
“I mean yeah, he’s a huge cow, but with the handlers there — it never enters your mind,” he said. “You’re around him so much you feel comfortable with him. Because at Texas games he has his own little spot, and he’s just always chilling there.”
Whatever it is that got Bevo going, he was on top of Wagner and Uga before either knew what hit ‘em. Both thankfully moved quickly.
Things could've gone better, but you gotta love a little Texas Fight. pic.twitter.com/LnpBtc1JsW— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) January 2, 2019
BEVO GOES AFTER UGA: Viewer Shelly Krass captured the moment the Longhorns mascot got out of its pen and went toward Georgia's mascot pic.twitter.com/M8K2EA7lml— KXAN News (@KXAN_News) January 2, 2019
It wasn’t until after Wagner’s phone started blowing up and someone sent him the overhead view that he realized how close he came to something much worse happening.
“I thought maybe he just brushed his horns into me. I didn’t realize he came out as much as he did until I saw the actual video,” he said. “Once I saw that vantage point, I was like ‘oh crap, I really escaped a bad time.’”
He didn’t need any medical attention, and ended up shooting the entire game. Considering what could have been, he’s lucky to make it out with just this bruise:
While he did get a nice shot of Uga, he didn’t turn his camera to Bevo in the moment. He had more pressing matters on his mind.
The great @WagsPhoto tells me on almost getting gored by Bevo: “Hahaha I was too busy running for my damn life. Ricardo was shooting.”— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) January 2, 2019
Bevo ended up being tied up for the rest of the night to avoid any more close encounters. And Uga ended up saying hello from a safe distance. Wagner hung around for a bit, but there wasn’t a shot like he’d planned.
Tonight, we’re pleased to welcome both teams’ live mascots, Uga and Bevo, to the @MBSuperdome. We believe that this is the first #SugarBowl to host both opponents’ mascots together at a Sugar Bowl Classic in the Superdome.— Allstate Sugar Bowl (@SugarBowlNola) January 2, 2019
Here’s a look at their pregame meeting. pic.twitter.com/IR1uIMar7L
The next time Wagner’s around Bevo, he’ll be more careful.
“I think he’ll be a little bit bigger,” Wagner said. “He’s still a little guy, if you can say that about him. I’m gonna respect him a little bit more than I have in the past year.”
One thing’s for sure: he’ll always have the memory of the time Bevo’s horns almost literally hooked him.
“That’s easily the top story I’ll have to tell for the rest of my life.”