Making The Transition: College To NFL Cheerleading

Throughout life kids are always asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

And at every career day, you saw at least one of your classmates dressed up as a professional athlete.

You would see kids suit up with jerseys and hats of their favorite professional basketball, baseball, and football teams, aspiring to reach the top tier of their sports.

For young cheerleaders, their dreams of a career in cheerleading stopped after the collegiate level. After graduation, there wasn’t an option to continue on as an athlete — until now. 

Since the early 1950s, NFL cheerleaders have been on the sidelines to pump up the energy, entertain the crowd, and elevate the overall game day atmosphere. While they are called cheerleaders, these talented athletes are actually dancers, but their presence on game days draws in the crowds.  

While dancers have been the main spirit-raisers in the NFL for many decades, over the past few years, many organizations have made a push to incorporate cheerleaders who stunt and tumble, just like you would see on the sidelines of your favorite college football games.

One team that has gone above and beyond to incorporate this new era of professional cheerleading is the Tennessee Titans.  

FloCheer caught up with former college national champion and one of the newest Titans Cheerleaders, Lakin Householder, to learn more about her transition from college to NFL cheerleading. 

“Ever since I was introduced into the cheer world at the age of 2, I knew I wanted to go as far as possible with cheer,” Householder said. “I honestly thought after 10 years of All Star cheer then graduating from Morehead State University with winning two back-to-back national titles that I was done being an athlete in the cheer world. I never thought NFL cheer would be in my future."

“Growing up in the cheer world, NFL cheerleaders were known to be strictly talented dancers. No stunts, no basket tosses, no pyramids. It was a different realm to me. That is until I heard about Tennessee Titans cheer auditions this year and I knew I had to go for it.”

Householder said the audition process for the Titans cheerleading program was one of the most intense tryouts she had ever been a part of. 

Each audition candidate had to select if they wanted to audition for the dancer, flyer, or base role, all of which had different job descriptions and requirements. 

“I chose the flyer role which was the most complex because that role had to go through both the stunt and dance portions of the audition process,” Householder said.

The preliminary audition began with an afternoon of choreography instruction for the dancer and flyer candidates. TTC Alumni created choreography that included complex dance and stunt moves that ranged from calypsos to toe touches in order to allow the judges to see what each candidates’ strengths and weaknesses were. Once dismissed for the evening, candidates began a long night of practice and repetition to ensure they were ready for the next day.

On the following morning, Lakin and the other Titan hopefuls returned to showcase the choreography they learned the day before along with their stunt and tumbling skills. It was critical that the candidates be well-rounded athletes and performers.

“The judges for each round had extremely qualified backgrounds, many of whom were well-known choreographers, dancers, or acrobats in the Nashville region,” Householder said. “Sunday also included a business interview with the Cheer Liaison and Community Outreach Coordinator as well as the Senior Director of Community Relations at the Titans.”

Similar to how college cheerleaders and dancers are ambassadors for their schools, the Titans wanted to make sure the candidates would be able to represent their organizations.

In the interviews, candidates had to introduce themselves and were asked a question that was pulled from a hat. The questions spanned a variety of topics and ranged from “How would you describe the Titans brand?” to “If you could have lunch with any person in history, who would it be and why?” 

“As a Tennessee Titans cheerleader, my role in the NFL is to be an ambassador for the organization 100 percent of the time, serving in the community and entertaining the NFL crowd on game days.”

The candidates who made it past interviews had one more audition before the team was announced.

“While the rest of the audition process was closed, I loved that the final stunt and final dance auditions were open to friends and family,” Householder said. “It was so great to see so many of the dancer candidates come to support us during stunt finals and so many of the base candidates come to support the dancers and the flyers during the dance finals!”

After the 2019-20 Titans Cheerleading team was announced, the real fun began as Householder and the team began their preparation for the upcoming season.

With both cheerleaders and dancers on the sideline, the Titans have added a new dynamic to their game day that elevates the atmosphere for the players and the fans. 

“It’s all about the gameday experience for fans and I think what we are doing magnifies that!” Householder said.

“Being able to showcase years of cheerleading experience alongside some of the most gifted professional dancers at this level is something incredibly special and adds to the excitement in Nissan Stadium on Sundays.”

Just like many college spirit squads, the Titans cheerleaders and dancers practice and train together as they work to build the ultimate game day experience.

“A lot of things are new with the Titans Cheerleading program this year and we are helping each other in any way we can,” Householder said. “We are one team, so we practice and work out together. When we learn new choreography, the dancers really help us flyers become better dancers and get the routines down in a way that makes us feel confident to perform on the NFL field. There are some days where only flyers and bases will have practice time after our essential team practice and dancers will stay to cheer us on or even try to learn how to stunt or tumble.”

“We have a lot of respect for each other on and off the field and that translates to the all-important team chemistry aspect of any squad.”

Householder has had a love for performing all her life and having the opportunity to continue her cheerleading career at the professional level is something she looks forward to as she takes on this season.

However, the opportunities that come along with having the title of a Titans cheerleader mean even more.

“This season we are paying tribute to the first Titans cheer team in 1999,” Householder said. “The women and men who came before me paved the way of the success that is Tennessee Titans Cheerleading. It’s something special. Being able to wear a replica of their uniforms from ‘99, have some of the most talented male cheerleaders as my teammates on the NFL sidelines, and showcasing cheer skills in honor of the first Titans cheer team makes me giddy when I even think about it. It’s exciting!”

“We’re bringing back a team that broke barriers in their era and I’m eager to make them proud by doing the same thing.”

Householder also added that she is excited about what she will be doing with the Titans off the field. 

“This year I am really excited the organization is encouraging us to pick a community service event/group that is close to each of us on the team and give back to a cause that we are passionate about!”

Are you interested in cheering in the NFL? If you are, Householder encourages you to go after it!

"Cheering in the NFL is unbelievably rewarding but also tough. You get challenged in ways that force you out of your comfort zone, but the athletic and personal growth is 100 percent worth it. Cheering in the NFL is a job, so do your research, reach out to current or former cheerleaders of that program, and make sure the program you are wanting to audition for is a good fit for you!"

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