Eagles Pride, Jersey Roots for Cheerleaders

By Carol Comegno
Courier-Post

Wearing no makeup, hospital scrubs and a cap that hides long brown locks, Deonna Baquero spends much of her full-time job in hospital operating rooms away from the public eye.

She travels from hospital to hospital throughout the region as a sales representative for a medical device manufacturer, assisting hospital personnel in the use and monitoring of new technologies for heart catheterizations and other medical procedures.

deonna
Deonna

A Marlton native and 2005 Cherokee High School graduate, Baquero leads a double life with two demanding careers that could not be more different. Her other job is only part-time, but it is glitzy and in the public spotlight.

She wears makeup, Vera Wang outfits and shakes pom-poms as one of 39 Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders performing at regular season Eagles home games and two preseason games each season.

Part of that job also requires appearances at dozens of community and charity events every year to represent and promote the Eagles and to raise money for causes they support.

“I feel like I lead two lives and love both of my jobs,” Baquero said Monday between surgical procedures at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, Monmouth County.

“I don’t mind going to work in scrubs and without makeup because I love helping patients and educating physicians and nurses on new products and helping them stay on top of technology. And my life as a cheerleader is also fulfilling because there is no other job I have had that has the amount of charitable work we do.”

“Yes, we wear sexy outfits for Eagles cheerleading and wear them with pride in representing ourselves and the entire Eagles organization,” she continued, “but we also represent more than that. We are also women who hold full-time jobs or are going to college full-time. A lot of people don’t realize all we do and fans are really amazed when they find out.”

Pilar
Pilar

Barbara Zaun, Eagles cheerleading director, said many of the women have impressive careers while others are still pursuing degrees.

Within the group are a malpractice lawyer, several teachers, a forensic accountant, a business analyst, a physician assistant and a speech pathologist.

Nine of the cheerleaders hail from South Jersey — Baquero; Erica Dorsey and Rachel Swartz, both of Marlton; twins Sage and Gabriella Cifaloglio of Medford, Lauren Bidicof Vineland, Alycia Guzman of Glendora, Pilar Martin of Mullica Hill and Nicole Mazzatenta of Gibbstown.

Baquero, a Rutgers University graduate, and rookie Swartz won’t be participating in Super Bowl events this Sunday. They will be traveling with four other Eagles cheerleaders to Mexico City as NFL goodwill ambassadors.

The cheerleaders will greet fans, sign autographs and perform at NFL Mexico’s Super Bowl Experience 2016. Beginning Friday they will make appearances throughout the city in a country where NFL officials say football is the second most popular sport — after soccer.

sage
Sage

“The Super Bowl is the most watched single sporting event in Mexico. Over 9 million people watched last year’s Super Bowl in Mexico,” said Jorge Loperana, NFL Mexico Director of Marketing and Media. “By having the Eagles cheerleaders participating at one of the most important viewing events in Mexico City helps to amplify the popularity of the sport and the growth of the local fan base.”

“It’s a huge event and I am really excited about it. It is a great way to interact with fans there, most of whom have never been to a game or met an NFL cheerleader,” said Swartz, a 21-year-old student at the University of Delaware majoring in communications.

Two other Eagles cheerleaders have flown to Asia to entertain the armed forces and bring a part of the NFL to the troops while they watch the Denver Broncos battle the Carolina Panthers Sunday.

Other Eagles cheerleaders are spending time at military installations in Singapore, Diego Garcia, and South Korea.

Eagles spokesman Brett Strohsacker said the cheerleaders have the opportunity to perform for the troops and personally thank them for their bravery and sacrifices. They also will learn about military life while staying at the installations.

“My grandfather served in the Air Force and I’ve always had great respect for the brave men and women that serve for our country … and I am always in awe of their courage and heroism,” said Moffa, a kindergarten teacher who has visited with active duty and wounded service members as an Eagles cheerleader.

Moffa can’t wait to distribute handmade cards from her students to the servicemen.

Passion for the job

Baquero was a cheerleader all through her public school years and at college while Swartz had danced ballet and jazz since the age of 2 but was never a cheerleader.

Swartz said she always was interested in cheerleading but never thought being an Eagles cheerleader was a possibility. “But I went for it and was surprised I made the team.”

She called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an honor to be on the field during games.

“For someone like me who dreamed of doing something like this, I am willing to make the sacrifices. And if you find something that you truly love as I have, it does not seem like a job,” said the 2012 Cherokee High School graduate.

The cheerleaders say they appreciate the passion of Philly fans.

“Our fans are like no others; you feel energy when you walk into the stadium it is just booming,” Swartz said. “They respect us and I also feel really respected as an employee of the Eagles. They have given me so many opportunities for which I am ever grateful.”

But being an Eagles cheerleader involves more than glamour. There are job guidelines, rehearsals twice a week with their director, new dances to learn every year from choreographer Suzy Zucker of Voorhees, practices before games and fan visits during tailgating prior to home games.

As a group, the cheerleaders make more than 350 personal appearances a year with each member required to attend a minimum of three events monthly.

Every team member also must try out every year. The two-month tryout and interview process is lengthy and begins March 5 at Lincoln Financial Field.

“We are looking for talented performers who have ability, showmanship and enthusiasm and can engage with fans and also with the community at events like junior cheerleading clinics and autism fundraisers,” Zaun said.

“Being on the the NFL stage is a great accolade and the pinnacle of a cheerleading career.”