The University of Delaware is often considered an afterthought in the college football world. After all, it calls the nation's smallest state home and plays football in the lightly regarded CAA (Colonial Athletic Association).
Yet somehow the "Fightin' Blue Hens" have been able to churn out the likes of famed NFL quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Rich Gannon -- which isn't too shabby.
However, neither Flacco or Gannon are the most beloved of all University of Delaware products. That honor goes to YoUDee, the team's award-winning mascot. Part giant chicken, part one-man spirit squad, YoUDee has become a legend in the state of Delaware.
As the season approaches, here is a look at 10 reasons why Delawareans love YoUDee:
1. He is an award winner
In 2009, 2011, and 2012, YoUDee took first place in the Open Division of the Mascot National Championship. He finished second in 2010. He entered the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006.
2. YoUDee traces his lineage to the birth of our nation
Legend has it that YoUDee's great-great-great-grandfather, Col. George W. YoUDee, received a medal for bravery in the Revolutionary War. "There's no yellow streak in that chicken. He's blue to the bone," said Capt. John Caldwell, whose statement unwittingly gave the Fightin' Blue Hens their traditional colors (blue and yellow-gold).
3. The state bird
YoUDee's look is loosely based on the Delaware state bird, the blue hen chicken, which was adopted as the state bird by the Delaware Assembly in 1939.
4. In reality he is a gamecock
Since 1911, the university has used the nickname "Fightin' Blue Hens" for its athletic teams. But YoUDee is actually a fighting bird -- a gamecock. The school adopted him as a tribute to Capt. John Caldwell, who hailed from Kent County. In addition to the bravery he displayed against the British during the Revolutionary War, he was an avid owner of gamecocks.
5. A really big bird
YoUDee stands at 6 feet 8 inches tall. His foot size is 28FF.
6. The little sibling
In 1999, YoUDee's little sibling, Baby Blue, was hatched at the Bob Carpenter Center at a University of Delaware basketball game. A total of 5,000 fans witnessed the birth of the 65-inch, 103-pound chicken.
7. Talk show YoUDee
Unlike most mascots, YoUDee isn't shy about conducting television interviews and fielding tough questions.
8. Roaming around Delaware
As the embedded video shows, YoUDee gets around quite a bit. When away from the University of Delaware, he can be found at the gym, local shops, parades, or other community events. He is also quite the "ladies bird."
9. Launching careers
Students at the University of Delaware who were fortunate enough to perform as YoUDee went on to portray a number of other notable mascots, including Poe (Baltimore Ravens), Clutch (Houston Rockets), and Swoop (Philadelphia Eagles). Currently, the university is holding student tryouts for the 2013 season.
10. Inspiration for being home grown
YoUDee provided inspiration to the University's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as it was announced that the school would maintain a breeding coup of blue hen chickens on the school's campus.
Robert Watkins is a strong supporter of University of Delaware athletics. He had the honor of taking part in a ceremonial coin toss prior to a 2006 Blue Hens football game with then Treasurer, Jack Markell (Governor; D-DE). Robert is a frequent contributor to Yahoo! Sports and News.