a crossing guard."
"I heard he's a professor, or used to be. I don't think he knows anyone in the band."
"I thought he was a former band member."
For the past decade, members of the Michigan Marching Band have speculated about the identity of the most faithful onlooker at their fall weekday practices at Elbel Field. He stands in the same spot every day, always wearing his signature orange reflective vest. Bad weather does not deter him, even when rain and cold scare away all the other spectators. At one practice last year, trumpet player Shayne Rodgers wondered, "Why is he out here in the rain, when I don't even want to be?"
The band's modest, unofficial mascot is retired astronomy prof Chuck Cowley. On a warm September day, his safety vest is layered over a blue button-up shirt, paired with black shorts and a U-M cap, a present from his son, Jim. As always, he's standing near the upper left-hand corner of the last set of bleachers, facing the brass section. "It's as good a view as I could get," he explains. Nearby, a young girl in a pink polka dot sun hat sits with her mother, holding a doll and nodding to the beat. Another mom pushes a double stroller with two children licking ice cream cones.