We caught up with Maloney at his apartment. He was putting on a Chief tie, getting dressed one more time before the Chief is retired. The U of I graduate student has lived a double life for the last year. He says, " me and Logan [chief first assistant] enjoy a significant amount of anonymity , people don't recognize us." That is, until he leaves his apartment for Assembly Hall. There he changes into a tradition millions recognize. "You know when you're younger you want to be a fireman, or Indiana Jones, or something like that, I wanted to be Chief," says Maloney. He is the 36th Chief Illiniwek.
With our visit to Maloney on his last journey as Chief, he shows us a towel he uses to wipe the face paint off. He laughs and says " it used to be white."
Maloney says his position as Chief is just as thrilling now as it was his first day. He quotes a former Chief when describing the feeling during the dance, "it feels like you run to the edge of a cliff jump, up in the air, sprout wings, and fly directly to a thundercloud. He says each jump, turn, and kick celebrates a culture rooted in America. "Those little movements those little, additions are our way of acknowledging the strength of the past, while moving forward, moving into the future."
But the future of this dance is over at least for now. Maloney says it's an intimidating thought, but he refuses to think he's the last one to ever perform as Chief Illniwek. He says what's more troublesome is "seeing people overcome with sadness at the potential loss of a tradition seeing people loves of this tradition betrayed by a few individuals."
Even without the regalia, Maloney says he'll continue representing the tradition, and he encourages Chief supporters to do the same. He leaves them with these words, " the tradition of Chief Illiniwek is about honor, it's about loyalty pride strength, and those who support Chief Illiniwek should support those values."
For him at least, the fight isn't over for the Chief. Maloney hopes his lawsuit will bring the Chief back to Assembly Hall again.