Gator Nation News

When Albert Met Alberta: A Heartwarming, Occasionally Steamy, Love Story

Albert (Brian) pretend-proposes to Alberta (Kourtney) in November 2005; right: Brian pops the question to Kourtney, for real, at Florida Field on April 29, 2006.

She’s a board-certified oncology pharmacist; he’s a public-school administrator. But back in the day, they ruled the Swamp as the ultimate Gator power couple.

Nearly 17 years ago, life reached a thrilling crescendo for Gators Brian (BA ’04, MED ’05, EDS ‘16) and Kourtney (DPH ’06) LaPlant, then 23 and 25 years old, respectively.

On the evening of April 29, 2006 — eight years after their first date as shy teenagers in southwest Florida — Brian surprised Kourtney by proposing to her on the 50-yard line at Florida Field. A local news photographer captured the romantic spectacle frame by frame (candles! ring! kiss! champagne!), and the feel-good story was picked up by the Associated Press, making front-page news nationwide and updated when they married in May 2007.

What made their gridiron courtship so irresistible, even for non-football fans?

From 2002 to 2005, the couple performed together as Albert and Alberta — the university’s official mascot couple — cavorting in plush alligator suits for up to 90,000 screaming fans at the Swamp and posing for photos with admirers. Like all students who don the furry clawed feet and oversized gator heads, they were sworn to secrecy about their game day identities, and for three years, the pair chomped, cheered and publicly flirted as their reptilian alter egos — while falling deeper in love in their off hours.


“My first official appearance was Coach Spurrier's farewell banquet. I distinctly remember bopping him in the head with my snout.”

— Brian LaPlant on his first appearance as Albert, Jan. 7, 2002 —

Students who have served as UF mascots (or “friends of the gator,” as they call themselves) cite it as a highlight of their college years. But for Brian and Kourtney, being joined at the hip as Albert and Alberta yielded an unexpected bonus: strong indicators they were cut out for a lifetime partnership, the LaPlants said in a recent interview.

“We were doing appearances together nearly every day,” remembered Brian, now vice principal at Sidney Lanier Center, in Gainesville. “We were always together, and it just felt right.”

“It solidified our relationship,” said Kourtney, an oncological pharmacist with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Benefits Management.

Even baking hand in hand on hot Florida days in the mascots’ heavy, pre-2015 uniforms — subsequently redesigned with lightweight fabric — revealed their love was more than (alligator) skin deep.

Brian and Kourtney practice their moves as Albert and Alberta in November 2005. They developed their own private hand signals to communicate since UF mascots cannot talk in public. Photo courtesy of Kourtney and Brian LaPlant.

“When you get to work with your best friend, under those conditions, it teaches you a lot about each other,” said Kourtney. “By the end of a game, we were sweaty, smelly, disgusting — and we still wanted to go home with each other!”

From Lemon Bay to Hogtown

The pair met in 1998 at Lemon Bay High School, in Englewood, where they performed in the jazz band. Kourtney, a junior, played alto sax; Brian, a sophomore, rocked the stand-up bass. She gave him a ride home from school one day — he didn’t have a license yet — and he worked up the nerve to ask her out to dinner at Steak n Shake, on a date still firmly etched in Kourtney’s mind:

“April 28, 2006,” she recited with cheerful exactness.

“Um, yeah, that’s it,” said Brian.

After going steady, Kourtney headed to the University of Florida in fall 1999, enrolling in the College of Pharmacy. As is not uncommon with teenage males, Brian made a couple of academic pit stops — music studies at the University of North Florida, two semesters at Santa Fe College — before settling in as a sociology major at UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in spring 2002.

Kourtney and Brian began dating as teenagers in Edgewood in 1998; they’re shown here at their high school prom that spring, when she was a junior and Brian, a sophomore. Photo courtesy of Kourtney and Brian LaPlant

But their future as a reptile twosome beckoned before Brian received his Gator1 card.

As a sophomore in 2001, Kourtney answered an ad in the Independent Florida Alligator for mascot tryouts. She got the part of Alberta, and Brian, who traveled to Gainesville on the weekends, gallantly lugged her 40-pound costume to games and cheered her on from the sidelines.

“He learned the trade from the other Alberts,” remembered Kourtney. “He would always tag along with the group, so it was natural for him to try out when he was eligible.”

Initially, however, Brian didn’t want to step on Kourtney’s, well, claws.

“It was her thing,” he remembered, “and I didn’t want to encroach on it.”

Urged on by other members of the Florida Gators Spirit Squad, which includes cheerleaders, mascots and the Dazzlers dance troupe, he realized, “If I’m carrying the uniform and I’m at all the events anyway, I might as well do it [myself].”

After winning the audition, Brian, like Kourtney, gained a partial scholarship and classification as a student-athlete.

Seeing the World Together Through Tiny Eyeholes

January 2002, Brian’s first month as Albert, also marked the end of Steve Spurrier (BSPE ’81)’s tenure as Head Ball Coach and the beginning of the Ron Zook era (2002-2004). An embarrassing incident revealed that schmoozing while encased in Albert’s giant 12-pound head, with its narrow eyeholes, was harder than it looked.

“My first official appearance was Coach Spurrier’s farewell banquet [Jan. 7, 2002],” said Brian. “I distinctly remember bopping him in the head with my snout.”

After their wedding ceremony on May 19, 2007, newlyweds Brian and Kourtney LaPlant visited the iconic Albert and Alberta statue at Emerson Alumni Hall. Unveiled in 2003, the bronze statue was cast from genuine mascot uniforms worn by Spirit Squad members during the LaPlants’ time in the limelight. Photo courtesy of Kourtney and Brian LaPlant

With practice, Brian soon learned how to avoid bashing VIPs and tripping over bleachers and cheerleaders. Some mishaps, however, couldn’t be helped.

“If people were in front of you and coming from far enough away, you could see them coming,” he said. “But there were times when you’d get grabbed from behind or the side —”

“— or they’d step on your tail!” added Kourtney.

Their reign as Albert and Alberta coincided with a lull in Gator sports: between the winning Spurrier years and the 2005-06 national basketball championship. Nevertheless, the LaPlants loved being ambassadors for UF in the early 2000s, they said.

“We got to celebrate and feel the energy that the Gator Nation brings, win or lose,” said Kourtney. “The fans create the atmosphere that pumps everybody up.”

For Brian, highlights included leading the traditional cheer originated by superfan George Edmonson, aka Mr. Two Bits, in 1949.

“Doing the Two-Bits cheer in the stadium is a whole lot of fun when the rowdies get going,” he reminisced.

Together, they created skits to highlight Albert and Alberta’s silly and teasing sides, keeping the antics PG enough to satisfy Spirit Squad guidelines — not always an easy task, they admitted.

“We got to celebrate and feel the energy that the Gator Nation brings, win or lose. The fans create the atmosphere that pumps everybody up.”

— Kourtney LaPlant —

“While we were doing it, the [Florida Gators] marketing department never solidified for us what Albert and Alberta were,” said Kourtney. “Were they a couple? Were they married? Were they friends? Were they siblings? There was always this ‘we don’t know’ thing.”

“The directive was, don’t go too extreme on anything,” said Brian. “It’s hard because the relationship between Albert and Alberta is always flirty, but it’s not spelled out.”

However, one mascot rule was crystal clear: no talking publicly while in uniform.

“We had hand signals to communicate what we were going to do, like a squeeze that meant it was time to go —” said Kourtney.

“— or, ‘I’m about to pass out,’” laughed Brian.

Eventually they didn’t even need that system.

“Because it was us, and we were comfortable with each other, we could ‘read’ each other, even in the costume,” she said. “Not that we were telepathic but …”
“… it was easy to know what the other person was thinking,” finished Brian.

“I’m Going to Throw Up”

The pair’s last football outing as Albert and Alberta was at Coach Urban Meyer’s first Orange and Blue game, on April 9, 2005, in front of 61,000 fans. The end of an era for them, a new one for the Gator Nation.

That August, Brian obtained his bachelor’s in sociology and began earning specialist credentials in educational leadership from UF. By April 2006, he was teaching social studies at a middle school in Alachua, while Kourtney was nearing the finish line for her doctorate in pharmacy.

Kourtney and Brian take time off to enjoy the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, along the Suwannee River, in October 2020. He took up running in 2018 and lost the 140 pounds that once made him a “big Albert.” Photo courtesy of Kourtney and Brian LaPlant

It was time to take the plunge, he decided. He chose the eighth anniversary of their first date, plus one day since Kourtney couldn’t go out on the 28th.

Brian secured the OK of then-Athletic Director Jeremy Foley to use Florida Field at night and enlisted some buddies, including a Gainesville Sun photographer, to spread out a blanket on the grass, scattered with rose petals and surrounded by a ring of candles. After dinner at Bonefish Grill, where Brian was too nervous to eat his favorite dish, Bang Bang Shrimp, he told her he had a surprise.

Uh oh, she thought. Maybe he was going to pop the question.

“I’m going to throw up,” she blurted out.

“Well, it’s not that big a surprise,” Brian replied nonchalantly.

To throw her off the scent, he whipped out a blindfold and drove her to High Springs and back, pulling his Toyota into the stadium. By then, she really was queasy and also no longer expecting a proposal.

When he took off the blindfold, revealing the candle-lit Florida Field, Kourtney burst into tears.

Brian knelt before her with a ring. “Will you marry me?”

Their friends in the bleachers, along with exercisers running steps, burst into applause.

Married, with Hatchlings

Brian and Kourtney have grown a lot since getting hitched at Gainesville’s historic Sweetwater Branch Inn on May 19, 2007.

Dr. Kourtney LaPlant is a clinical pharmacy program manager in oncology for the VA’s Pharmacy Benefits Management and serves as a career coach for the UF College of Pharmacy.

Brian went on to earn a master’s degree in social studies education from UF in 2016. His 20-year-long career with the Alachua County Public School District includes teaching at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School and serving as vice principal at multiple schools and now at Sidney Lanier Center (a continuous education program for students from kindergarten through age 22).

Among his former charges: an elementary school student who went on to become Albert.

Today, the LaPlants live and work in Gainesville, where they are raising their two children. Front, left to right: Brock, 11, Brooklyn, 8. Photo courtesy of Kourtney and Brian LaPlant

“It was such a proud papa moment,” he said.

He and Kourtney are now proud parents to two actual children of their own, Brock, 11, and Brooklyn, 8. Neither has announced plans to become a mascot — yet. But Brock is already gunning to attend UF, noted Brian.

“People ask us all the time why we haven’t left Gainesville,” he remarked. “It’s such a transient town. The community that UF is, is why we’re here. It’s so important to who we’ve been and our life.”

That community sustained Kourtney when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2020 and underwent chemo and multiple surgeries. (As of January 2022, she had been cancer-free for a year.) Brian was at her side throughout.

“I couldn’t have done it without him,” said Kourtney.

Like anyone who puts down roots in their college town, the LaPlants are constantly reminded of their younger selves. At the Swamp and O’Dome. At Spirit Squad reunions. At tailgates for F Club members (comprised of card-carrying, dues-paying Gator letterwinners, including former mascots, whose ID cards are still stamped “Mascot” in big, black letters).

Nowadays, the LaPlants are content to be just Kourtney and Brian. But occasionally they get a fleeting urge to be alligators again.

The last time was in 2015. Albert and Alberta’s costumes had just gotten a makeover – lighter fabric, bigger eyes, different “F” font on the sweater — and someone brought samples of the new costumes to a Spirit Squad reunion in Gainesville.

“They were like, ‘Put it on!’” remembered Brian.

Fighting temptation, the pair held back.

“We tried on the heads,” admitted Kourtney. “I kinda wanted to ask to put the rest of the suit on, but, well, we didn’t want to be those kind of people, you know?”