The man who entertained as Rockets' Clutch the bear calls it quits

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Man behind the Clutch mask calls it quits
Man behind the Clutch mask calls it quits

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- He's one of the most photographed Houstonians.

When Robert Boudwin was asked what makes Clutch so popular he laughed and said, "Don't tell him that it might give him a big head, oh wait, he already has a big head."

Who wouldn't want their picture taken with a giant teddy bear full of Rockets spirit? The original man in the Clutch costume is now retiring.

Boudwin is just as energetic as the fun and furry friend he has played for more than two decades. "I have mixed emotions. I'm excited for the next phase of my life, but this is a character and persona near and dear to my heart," he said.

Boudwin has made us laugh by jumping, skating and running around the city. Sometimes working 20 hours a week, but often working 90 hours a week. The hardest working bear in Houston.

He said he's gotten a lot of the same questions over the years, "You get the mascot top 10 -- 'Is this your real job? What do you do in the off-season? Is it hot? Is it hard not to talk? How do you pee?'"

Its makes him laugh when he describes his job, playing one of the NBA's most popular mascots.

He's appeared at hundreds of Rockets games, school visits and community appearances. Just watching him might make you exhausted.

"The hardest part was coming home from work every day and my kids would say 'Eww, you smell like Clutch'."

Boudwin auditioned as Houston's first Clutch while still in college. An honors student in marketing and management, he started his mascot career as YoUDee at the University of Delaware.

"My parent's friends were like 'Oh, my gosh, you paid all this money for him to go to college and he's going off to Texas to be a Teddy Bear?'" He adds that it's time for him to move on.

His family of five is soon growing to seven, with twin girls on the way. When asked what advice he would give the next Clutch, he said, "Be funny." As he lets go, he says the Rockets will always be a part of him as they look for who will clinch the Clutch role next.

"I am forever grateful. This will always be a very special place in my heart. I'll be a Houstonian for the rest of my life because of it," said Boudwin.

Sometimes Boudwin had to go to work when he wasn't feeling well. He only missed three Rocket games during his tenure, two when he had pneumonia and one for his father's lung transplant.

Next, he will be taking some time off for his twin girls who are arriving soon, then he will be launching his own consulting and public speaking practice.