Skip navigation
Return to Blog Home

The Magic Behind Sparty – Meet the 2020 Graduates

  • Author:

    Aimee Klevorn

  • Published:

    June 10,  2020

MSU Sparty Graduates

For decades it has been an honored and sacred tradition for members of the Sparty Mascot Program to proudly walk across the stage at commencement donning the shiny green boots. As the secret is revealed, the crowd goes wild and family and friends finally understand the “why” behind the late nights and last-minute schedule changes.

The crowd cheers, but few truly understand the meaning behind the boots: dedication, volunteerism, sacrifice and a whole lot of energy. Those who have had the honor have donated hundreds of hours to the university and community. They know firsthand what it means to be a Spartan and have committed their college experience to spreading good will, helping those in need, supporting the university, keeping up on pushups and offering countless high fives.

This year, things are a little different for the graduating seniors. The day they have been looking forward to will not happen in the way it had for past members. The 2020 Commencement has been postponed, but the magic behind the world’s greatest mascot remains as real as ever.

Meet our 2020 graduates, Joseph Hrabnicky and Cory Hilton, and join us as we celebrate their accomplishments and thank them for their dedicated service to the university and to the Sparty Mascot Program. Through thick and thin, these two have remained positive, appreciative and the ultimate supporters of the university.



Cory Hilton

Hometown: Chesterfield Township, MI

College: College of Engineering

Major: Electrical Engineering

What are some of your favorite Sparty memories? 

  • The 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Sweet Sixteen game against Duke. When Coach Izzo drew up that last play with Kenny Goins hitting a 3-pointer in the last second of the game, I had never been more nervous, yet excited as I was in that moment.
  • My first Big Ten 10k. It was my first experience with the other mascots, and I got to experience media days with people who were so similar to me which was so much fun. You could never get a group of people who have never met and have them mesh so well together.
  • The Quicken Loans basketball commercial shoot in 2017. I was the first Sparty to ever successfully dunk a basketball in suit. I couldn't see out of the suit and could barely feel the ball. It took me 13 tries and only 3 of the balls actually went in. When I finally got the one that made the cut, I was running around that court like I'd just won the national championship. You would've thought so too by the way the crew and other mascots reacted.
  • What kind of Sparty would I be if I didn't list the 2019 Final Four? The pep rallies, the alumni outings like meeting Magic Johnson and Kirk Cousins, hanging with my Goldy friends. Despite the outcome of that game, when asked about what college was like for me in 20, 30, 50 years, that's going to be one of the things I have to talk about.

What does “wearing the boots” mean to you?

The boots are a symbol, not just of Michigan State, but of something more than most people could understand. Wearing those boots transforms you. It didn't matter how any given day could be going, when I put on those boots I was happy, energetic and friendly. When I was wearing those boots, I could be the person anyone would look to and say, "these are the qualities I want to have". I could make anybody smile and there was no better feeling in the world than that.

What was the hardest secret to keep? Or Who was the most difficult person to keep this secret from?

The hardest secret to keep was from my roommates in the dorms during all the training and onboarding. Living in such close proximity made it hard to hide everything from them.


Joe reveal

Joseph Hrabnicky

Hometown: Wyandotte, MI

College: Communication Arts and Sciences

Major: Advertising Management

What are some of your favorite Sparty memories?

  • My all-time favorite memory was when the MSU Men's Basketball team won the Regular Season Big Ten Conference title. Not knowing it would be the last time I wore the suit, it was both emotional and gratifying to watch the guys I spent 3 years with close out a tremendous streak, despite the immense adversity they fought through, and raise a banner.
  • Flying out to New Orleans at the request of Coach Payton, to give Drew Brees, a Purdue alum, a hard time about State’s win over Purdue was an incredibly unique and fun experience.
  • My last run out at a football game will always be memorable. It was the first time I didn’t black out while doing it and it was emotional to hear the crowd roar one last time as I threw the flag into the 50 yard line and ran over to the student section for a grand finale.
  • A funeral that I attended for an alum was the most emotional event I ever attended. It was a reminder of how deep MSU runs in peoples’ lives and how much the university means to Spartan families from our first days to our last.

What does “wearing the boots” mean to you?

Wearing the boots means putting the university on your back, literally and figuratively, through thick and thin. It means always prioritizing people’s happiness and ensuring that everyone has that fire burning inside them. It’s about being an ambassador for the individual and the whole at the same time and representing something far bigger than yourself. Wearing the boots means finding yourself at the smallest events and having the largest impact. The boots are a tool for service, dedication and love.

What was the hardest secret to keep? Or Who was the most difficult person to keep this secret from?

The hardest part of keeping the secret was getting so much help from so many people without being able to give them a reason why.