For the first time in decades, the New England Patriots will have male cheerleaders on the sidelines this season.
Two men were selected to be on the squad for the upcoming season.
“Walking (into tryouts), I knew people were going to look at me — one, because I am over 6 feet tall, and two, because I am a male,” said 23-year-old Driss Dellahi of Londonderry, New Hampshire.
Months before his audition in March, Dellahi went to the squad’s optional workshop and realized he wasn’t alone.
He met Steven Sonntag.
“I attended that workshop and walked in and heard there was another boy, and so I was immediately looking around trying to find him,” said Sonntag, 22, of Colchester, Vermont.
They didn’t know each other until they realized they had the same dream.
“We didn’t really know the criteria for male cheerleaders auditioning for the New England Patriots, so we kind of created that together in texting back and forth,” said Sonntag.
They coordinated colors and styles of clothes to wear so they wouldn’t look off or out of place.
The two were the only men that auditioned, and both made the roster, becoming the Patriots’ first male cheerleaders since the early 1980s.
“I was excited,” said Tracy Sormanti, the Patriots’ director of cheerleading, when asked about first seeing the two at tryouts. “Change is good.”
For decades, Sormanti, who was once a cheerleader herself, has led the squad.
“They were not selected because they were the first men to try out,” said said. “They were selected because they actually had the talent.”
Sonntag started cheering in high school and created the team at Dean College.
Dellahi just spent the last year and a half in New York City auditioning for jobs, but his biggest break would come back home in New England.
Dellahi’s specialties include aerials, which Sormanti said she’s brainstorming ways to incorporate into their acts.
Both men pointed to the LA Rams’ cheerleading team as their inspiration to tryout.
“At least in my lifetime, it was the first time I had seen two men do something like that,” said Dellahi.
Last season, Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies gained national attention for becoming the first male cheerleaders to perform at a Super Bowl.
Both Dellahi and Sonntag reached out to them on social media for advice and were warned about what they might hear in the stands or read online.
“If there are people that aren’t 100 percent on board today, then maybe somewhere down the line, they are, once we actually get out there,” said Dellahi.
Sonntag calls this the new generation of cheerleading in the NFL.
“Two genders on the squad is a big step for any team in the NFL, because that’s not what people are used to seeing sidelines, so I encourage it to progress even more across the NFL board,” said Sonntag.
Now that they’re on the team, they will make public appearances in the community serving as ambassadors for the Patriots.
Their first performance will be during the Patriots’ preseason.
Photo Credit: NBC10 Boston
Source: NBC San Diego