What could you do in five minutes? The answer to that question could be an array of things, but for one UT student, five minutes is more than enough time to make friends with tens of thousands of people.

The process is as easy as a costume change and a mask on a Saturday afternoon in the fall.

Following a morning full of appearances throughout the campus, there he is, leading the Vols out of the tunnel as they run through the 'T.'

"I don't really know how to explain it, that's just such a great experience," he said. "There is just such a big feeling of family because everybody is there for the same cause, they all just love UT and there is just so much orange and they are all just chanting at the same time. It's just one of the really big things about the job."

That job, of course, is being Smokey, the mascot of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

In his three years in the suit, he has perfected a character that requires an extraordinary amount of detail for every last second of a game.

Costume changes, gathering props and preparing skits, celebrations and interactions are all requirements of the job, and while under the mask, all of it must be done without going unseen.

"The ultimate goal is that Smokey is seen and prevalent at all given times in the stadium," spirit program Head Coach Joy Postell-Gee said. "When Smokey leaves or departs for any amount of time, that should never be a visible observance of any fan."

Throughout history, Smokey has been much more than just a character for the university.

The mascot was integral in bringing national recognition to the spirit program, winning the school's first College Mascot National Championship back in 2000.

The school has since won two more mascot titles, the last coming in 2008.

But with all the history and success that prior Smokeys have seen, Postell-Gee, who has run the spirit program since 1991, said the current Smokey rivals anyone who has had the privilege of putting on the suit.

"I've been very fortunate in my past couple of decades to have very successful mascots," Postell-Gee said. "(With that said) I would venture to say that he is probably up there with the top five. His passion for being Smokey, first and foremost, is very equivalent with any of those in the top five. The other thing is that, often times mascots when they come into the program as an understudy, they come into a really good situation because they have a great leader in their head Smokey, but I feel like, unlike some of the other former mascots, he was not provided that luxury.

"So not only has he had to provide that for the character Smokey, but also for his understudies, so I feel like he has had to do double duty and I think he has certainly captured some goals and expectations that we had become complacent on in the past couple of years."

With an identity that needs to remain anonymous, the ability to snap out of character once the suit has been shed is a necessity.

After an entire day of interacting with fans, however, that task is easier said than done, he says.

"After an event with little kids, I'll go change and get out of suit and just be walking out – and I've caught myself from doing this several times – but I'll go to pat a kid on the head on the way out and then be like 'well that's weird, I shouldn't do that because I'm not a dog right now,'" he said. "So it's really hard to snap back and forth."

Anyone who's ever seen Smokey knows how outgoing he can be, but the personality of the person behind the mask is nowhere near what Smokey's is.

"Contrary to popular opinion that a mascot is always outgoing and vibrant and very communicative, his personality is not like that," Postell-Gee said. "He is much more comfortable putting that Smokey head on and he is very verbal with his expression (as Smokey)."

As one can imagine, in three years, Smokey has racked up many memories. While being on the sidelines and celebrating touchdowns – or whatever the scoring may be for the multitude of sports that Smokey attends – is an exciting experience for him, nothing lives up to the one thing he loves most about the job – interaction.

"Whenever a little kid just runs to you – and some kids are really scared and that's fine – but others just adore you, and they'll run up to you and look at you with these big eyes, and they are just so enthralled by the mascot," he said. "Those are my favorite moments."

When it comes to the actual games, though, one moment is right up there with interacting with the fans.

"(Other than the interaction) I guess a really close second would be running through the 'T.' Just hearing the crowd roar as you run, it's like you're being carried by their voices."

And when a long day's work of being the most recognizable figure on campus is over and the suit is hung up for the night, that's when he goes back to being one of more than 27,000 students, a transformation that definitely elicits some emotion.

"It's really humbling, I'll just put it that way," Smokey said. "It's hard to explain."

While the experience of unmasking and reverting back to a student is a humbling one, the feeling he gets seeing through Smokey's eyes is one he wouldn't give away for anything.

"It's an opportunity to get out of myself and to be something else," he said. "Some people say when you read a book, you get to escape your life and you're just like that character for awhile ... it's exactly like that, only real life."