Monica Eller is bringing new excitement to TSU football as the Trojan Warrior Princess. She and quot;Big Redquot; have moved out of the rodeo spotlight and into the limelight of college football. Moni
Published 12:00 am Friday, October 8, 1999
Monica Eller takes on role of TSU’s ‘Trojan Warrior Princess’
By JAINE TREADWELL
Published Oct. 8, 1999
Moments after the TSU Trojans scored their first touchdown in the home season opener, a packed stadium, two rival teams and the men in striped suits were shocked to see the Trojan Warrior Princess blaze across Scrushy Field on a towering red steed.
The warrior princess turned her horse around in the Trojan end zone as whistles blared and officials frantically waved their arms at the other end of the field.
"I guess they thought I was coming back," said Monica Eller, laughing.
The Trojan Warrior Princess had unexpectedly sprinted down the field just as the Trojans were set to kick the point after touchdown – much to the dismay of the officials and to the delight of Trojan fans."
"I didn’t mean to do anything wrong," Monica said. "I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life. I just felt terrible. I knew Coach Blakeney was going to hate me and all the other coaches and the players but I guess they liked it okay."
And why wouldn’t they? The Trojan Warrior Princess has brought new excitement to Trojan football and she has been the talk of the town leading up to the Trojans clash tomorrow night with Northwestern (La.) State.
However, the Trojan Warrior Princess won’t interrupt an extra point attempt with a dash down the field again but horse and rider will make a statement when the home team scores.
Even though Monica admits she has never been a big fan of football, she did wonder when she came to Troy State three years ago why the football team didn’t have a mascot to rival the "War Eagle."
Monica’s dad was a military man and she didn’t have deep roots at any one place. However, she fell in love with horses when her dad was stationed in Italy.
"We lived out in the suburbs and our landlord had horses and I wanted one so bad," Monica said. "My dad promised me when we got back to the states he would get me a horse. Two years later we moved back – to Texas – so he couldn’t get out of that!"
Monica was only eight years old when she got her first horse but she "jumped right into everything" – riding, lessons and shows – and she started racking up blue ribbons.
Soon, Monica needed a bigger, faster horse and tougher competition.
She found both when her family moved to the Florida Panhandle and she started competing in the National Barrel Horse Association. She won her first barrel racing championship when she was 15. In 1992, she competed in the national finals with hundreds of runners.
"When I was riding well enough to get a bigger and better horse, my dad got me a bigger and better horse – a real expensive horse," Monica said. "He was bigger but not better, at least not for me. He had a bad habit of running past the first barrel. He didn’t want to do what I wanted him to do and needed him to do. We just didn’t make a good pair."
A friend had a huge 1,300 pound horse with behavior problems "bad behavior problems."
"Evidently this horse had been badly mistreated because nobody could do anything with him," Monica said. "A lot of people who knew horses said he should be put to sleep."
However, Monica believed she could do something with him so she began to work him and gradually the two formed a bond of trusted between them.
"I told my friend when I got back from nationals I would trade my horse, which was from a championship bloodline, for her problem horse and I did," Monica. "God sent Cracker Jack Moon "Big Red" to me. He turned out to be an awesome barrel horse and we won a lot of races and some pretty good money for a high school student. I’ve had more fun with that horse than I’ve had in all the rest of my life. He puts his heart into everything we do together."
"Big Red" is not a young horse, so Monica retired him from barrel racing competition and she turned her thoughts to college. She thought Big Red would live out his life as a big ol’ pet with a big ol’ heart in a big ol’ pasture.
But, there was more limelight ahead for the rodeo retirees – Monica and Cracker Jack Moon.
"Like I said, I thought it was weird that Troy State didn’t have a real live mascot when I came here," Monica said. "I didn’t know anything about football except what little I knew about Auburn so, if they had an eagle, why didn’t we have a Trojan warrior on a horse?"
Monica had puzzled over the thought often. She spoke her concern aloud one day at the TSU field house at the beginning of the fall semester.
"Somebody said they were looking for one, so I went and talked to Robert Smith," Monica said. "Of course, they were looking for a male warrior and I was a female. But the drawback to having a rider and a horse was the university would have to buy the horse and care for him and it had not seemed like a feasible idea."
But Monica had a horse – a fine "out to pasture" horse – that was as at-home before a crowd as he was in the pasture.
"Mr. Smith liked the idea and the next thing I knew I was in a Xena-style suit and in the limelight as the Trojan Warrior Princess," Monica said. "I don’t know what a warrior princess would do exactly but …"
And no one knows exactly what the Trojan Warrior Princess will do but there is little doubt electricity that will run through Memorial Stadium tomorrow night when the Trojans score and the Warrior Princess and Big Red "celebrate."