By Lannan M. O’Brien
Jessica M. Strohm was clothes-shopping at Express when she received word that she made the 2015 Patriots cheerleading squad. Her screams of joy elicited looks from other shoppers, but she was unbothered. This year was the fourth that she tried out for the team and the first that she was selected as a member.
A 2008 Falmouth High School graduate, Ms. Strohm started cheering at the Pop Warner level and served as captain of the high school squad in her sophomore and junior years. She currently works full time as a sales manager for Performance Foodservice in Rhode Island.
“I was so excited, yet so nervous,” she said of the tryouts during a phone interview last Friday.
This year’s preliminary auditions were held on February 28, followed by final auditions last month. Ms. Strohm made it to the third round of tryouts for the squad’s dance team and was cut, but later was called back to try out for the promotional team. Following interviews and a two-week boot camp at Gillette Stadium, she was one of 10 candidates selected as promotional team members. Twenty-eight cheerleaders made the full roster from an initial pool of 300 candidates.
Tryouts were more of a team effort than they were a competition, Ms. Strohm said. While candidates were personally determined to make the team, they also connected with each other to form a support system.
“You’re with such an amazing group of girls,” she said.
The environment was in stark contrast to that of the “pageant world” familiar to her. Ms. Strohm has competed in several beauty pageants, earning the title of Ms. New England States in a tri-state tournament last November. She also competed in the Miss Massachusetts USA pageant the same month. Unlike those competitions, Ms. Strohm said, cheerleaders seeking a spot on the Patriots squad were not in it for themselves.
“Everyone wants to make it together… it’s more a ‘team effort’ to make the team,” she said.
As for her own success, Ms. Strohm is looking forward to events, such as a Junior Patriots Cheerleader clinic in May and a June calendar photoshoot. She has already begun practices on Tuesdays and Saturdays, completing workouts the remainder of the week.
The promotional team will cheer for half of each home game and make appearances at the stadium’s clubs and private suites for the other half. Outside of games, Ms. Strohm and her teammates will serve as spokespeople for The Kraft Group, a group of privately held companies led by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, representing the team at various functions and charity events.
“I have to pinch myself every day, knowing that I work for Bob Kraft,” she said, adding that the Patriots are involved with “so many different charities.”
She is not nervous or intimidated but is excited to start the season. Her family, too, is excited for her. They understand how hard she has worked “year after year” to reach this goal. In a phone conversation earlier this month, Jessica’s mother, Falmouth Fire Rescue administrative assistant Kimberlee A. Strohm, said that when her daughter wants something, she holds on and never lets go.
Jessica Strohm agreed. “You can’t give up on the things that you want… you have to take it one day at a time,” she said. There is truth in the expression “YOLO” (an acronym for “You only live once”), she added, even if it sounds cheesy. “You take those opportunities and the dreams that you have and do whatever it takes to get there.”
Still, becoming a cheerleader for a national football team hardly feels like a reality. “It’s the best [football] team in the US,” Ms. Strohm said of the Patriots. Perhaps her dream will not materialize until the moment she joins a team huddle, she said, and looks up from the field at hundreds of thousands of fans.