Valley View Woman Vying for Spot as Eagles Cheerleader

By Vicki Terwilliger
The Repubic-Herald

A Valley View woman’s hoping the view from the sidelines at Philadelphia Eagles football games is one she’ll bring into focus.

vikciAmanda Lyn Gerber will soon try out for a spot on the team’s cheerleading squad at Lincoln Financial Field, home stadium of the National Football League’s Eagles.

It’s a position she’s been in before — just one of 400 hopefuls vying for the opportunity.

“Last year when I was cut after the third audition round, I immediately knew I would be trying out again this year because it was truly one of the most exhilarating experiences in my life to date,” Gerber, 20, said. “I was given the opportunity to meet so many amazing people, and I learned so much about my own skills and abilities, as well as confidence in myself.”

Gerber spent the last year preparing for a few short moments in front of the judges. Boosting her dancing abilities was something she was committed to do in order to become a professional cheerleader.

She’s currently a student at Penn State Berks Campus, Reading, studying communication sciences and disorders, and will further her education in State College this fall.

“I immediately began looking for studios that I could take classes at once my fall semester started up. I actually found an amazing coach through a mutual friend of my mother, and she was just beginning to teach at Dance Fusion Studios in Reading. I started taking private lessons towards the end of August, and in September I joined a jazz class at the studio.”

Gerber has her own fan base of family members who’ll be rooting for her again this year.

She resides with her mother, Ruthann Harner; stepfather, Chad Harner; and two younger brothers, Brenton and Kaden Harner. She’s also the daughter of Gary Gerber, Shamokin, and has an older brother, Jonathon Gerber, who resides in Florida. Gerber is the granddaughter of Ruth Riley, Valley View, Bruce and Penny Johnson, Gratz, Sandy Gerber, Quakake, and Kim and Janice Harner, Sacramento.

This year’s tryouts will begin with a dance prep workshop and mock audition on Feb. 16 and 17, respectively. Gerber said that’s the time when she’ll learn the audition dance two weeks prior to the open call audition, which is March 5.

“I will definitely be accompanied by my mother and my older brother, Jonathon, and hopefully more members of my family as well. However, the open call audition is not open to the public so they cannot watch my audition. If I advance past the open call auditions on March 5, I will likely have a second audition that same day that determines if I make it to semifinals.”

Gerber’s unsure of the exact number of cheerleaders they are looking for, but recalled last year they were seeking about 40 people.

“The tryout process is pretty simple,” she said. “You are taught choreography very similar to what the Eagles dance style is. At the open call audition, you are given a number, and you perform in groups of around 10 girls. The judges are looking for girls who can memorize and perform choreography correctly, have skills in dance, and who just generally look happy while doing it.”

“I recall a member of the crew saying last year, ‘We aren’t just looking for dancers, we’re looking for models.’ So, fitting the part is pretty cut and dry,” said Gerber, who has participated in cheering since she was young, in high school, and now as a cheerleader for the Penn State Berks men’s basketball team.

The preparation has been an entertaining part of the journey, she said.

“The most exciting and fun part of this process, though a little stressful, is the preparation — getting my hair done, ordering the perfect, flashy and bold audition outfit, getting photographs taken for my portfolio and so much more. The most challenging part has been completely dedicating myself to being prepared for this year. It was very difficult with work and school, but I’ve really focused on being in shape and eating clean to prepare for this year’s audition. I’ve worked hard in my dance classes, and improved my flexibility and dance skills tremendously, although there is still always room for improvement.”

She’s planning on using her past audition experience this time around.

“Right before my audition last year, all I kept telling myself was that I should be happy no matter what the outcome is, because I was so proud of myself for even having the guts to audition in the first place considering there were over 400 girls at the audition. I almost felt a little in over my head, but excited at the same time. I was not surprised when I was cut after the first round, and I was still so thankful for the experience. So, a few days after the open call audition where I was originally cut, I received a phone call from the director asking if I would be interesting in coming back for the semifinal audition. I’m sure you can only imagine how excited I was, and of course I said ‘Yes!’ I think I was already dialing my mother’s phone number before I even hung up with the director because I was so anxious to share the news.”

She took another trip to Lincoln Financial Field to learn the choreography for the semifinal audition, and a few short weeks after that was faced with yet another “nerve-wracking” audition, she said.

“This time I was dancing along side just one other girl, and the audience was not only the judges, but also 50 to 100 Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holders. I barely even remember auditioning. It was so quick and I had so much adrenaline. But, again I was happy with whatever the outcome was. Unfortunately, only about 75 girls made it through the semifinal round and I was not one of them, but the amazing feeling I had after auditioning that day still plays through my head,” Gerber said.

She added, “I’ve dreamed about cheering for them since I was young.”

Cheer Journey: Jess Reveals The Key



Jess became a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader in 2012 when she was just 19 years old. Growing up, Jess was a cheerleader for six years and felt like something was missing when she went to college.

“One night I was out with my parents at a restaurant and I remember looking up at the TV and seeing an NFL game,” said Jess. “The camera flashed to one of the cheerleaders and I remember asking my parents ‘Do you think I could do that?’ They looked at me and said, ‘Absolutely!’”

With encouragement from her parents, Jess sought advice from her friend who was already an Eagles Cheerleader and decided to audition.

Did you know a lot of information before auditioning?

“Yes! I spent a lot of time on my laptop searching for information about tryouts and looking at the cheerleaders’ profiles on the Eagles’ website.”

Did you have previous cheer or dance experience?

“I cheered for six years and I took some hip-hop classes here and there, but I never had any formal dance training. Our choreographer is an amazing teacher and I cannot believe the progress I have made with some of the more technical dance moves in just two years.”

What is the most beneficial part of the audition workshops?

“Learning the Open Call Dance ahead of time, and getting helpful tips from members of the current squad.”

Do you have any advice for the contestants attending the Open Call?

“Confidence is key! Confidence is something that the judges will notice from across the room and it is the best thing you can bring to an audition.”

What was the final audition like for you?

“The Final Audition Show was such an incredible experience. It’s such an amazing feeling to be one of the 60 finalists chosen out of the hundreds of women who audition. You meet and get to perform on a stage with beautiful and talented women and everyone is so supportive not only backstage, but in the audience as well. You feel like a rock star when you go out on that stage.”

Do you have any advice for contestants who may not have much dance or cheer experience?

“Dance is only one aspect of the Auditions. They are also looking for women with showmanship, enthusiasm and confidence so let that shine through when you are in front of the judges.”

What is the best way to practice for the audition?

“I definitely recommend coming to the workshops. After that, practicing in front of a mirror and in front of friends and family is really helpful. If you’re sitting at work or in class, run through the dance in your head. Studies show that running through things mentally can increase your performance!”

What has been your favorite part about being a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader?

“I have so many amazing memories with women I am proud to call my friends. I would have to say my favorite part would be giving back to the community with the many community service projects we do such as: Play 60, Playground Builds, visiting CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), the Little Yellow School House (a school for children with special needs) and many more.”

Eagles Pride, Jersey Roots for Cheerleaders

By Carol Comegno

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.


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.”


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.


“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.”