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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Put Cheerleaders on Your Calendar 

Posted by James at 7:05 AM ET

15 Young Women Make up Squad for the Houston Texans


By Louis Parks
The Houston Chronicle
Someday, when they are middle-school math teachers, twin sisters Marisa and Larisa can proudly tell their students that they were the August stars of the first-ever Houston Texans Cheerleader calendar.

Then again, that might not be helpful in Algebra 1.

Larisa and Marisa — Texans cheerleaders go by first names only — and 13 of their squadmates will be on hand today to introduce the 2008 calendar to the public.

Larisa and Marisa

"I think it's very exciting," says Larisa, the one who always poses on the left. "We're just very honored to be a part of it, because it's the first calendar for the Texans. I think it's a great thing for the fans to take part in. It's something different."

The $10 calendars will be sold exclusively at all Academy stores, and the profits will go to the Houston Texans Foundation and the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center.

Fifteen of the 32 National Football League teams have cheerleaders, says Texans cheerleader program manager Alto Gray, and all those have calendars except the Texans.

Until today.

Larisa and Marisa

"We've been waiting a while to get the owner's — Mr. (Bob) McNair's — approval for a calendar," she says. "I think there was a concern of keeping a positive image and keeping it respectful and tasteful. We accomplished that with the pictures. It's a swimsuit calendar but very tasteful, and the net proceeds are going to charity."

Modern-style NFL cheerleaders came into being with the 1972-73 Dallas Cowboys. The league was not at all happy — at least officially — when Playboy featured NFL cheerleader nude pictorials starting in the late 1970s. Gray says the Texans wanted to make sure their calendar was not too sexy or racy.

"Like the Philadelphia Eagles," she says. "They had a lingerie calendar (2005-06). Theirs is very racy, the raciest in the NFL. The Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys are a little more provocative (than the Texans). We had to make sure we were w-a-a-a-y underneath them (in being provocative)."

Instead of actual swimsuits, the Texan cheerleaders wear custom "swim" attire made from the jerseys and pants of Texans players. Marisa's and Larisa's bandeau tops are created, with stylish flair, from the upper portions of an Andre Johnson jersey.

"But different colors," Marisa says.

The Twins — as their squad mates usually call them, since many still cannot tell the two apart — were born and raised in Baytown, where they attended Ross S. Sterling High School and performed together on the drill squad. Perhaps more important for the current duties, "We've danced all our lives since we were 3 years old, we did competition dances together, lyrical ballet, tap duet," Larisa says.

Larisa and Marisa
They are currently majoring in education at the University of Houston, where they expect to graduate next fall.

"It's a requirement to have a full-time job or be a full-time student or a full-time mother to be a Texans cheerleader," Larisa says.

But the Twins' fun part-time job is representing the Texans, which they are now doing for the third year in a row. Texan cheerleaders are paid minimum wage and their team work, including nine hours of rehearsals plus appearances, is often close to 20 hours a week.

"We'll make over 400 appearances this year," says Gray. "We are in high demand this year."

Quite an accomplishment for two sisters to achieve together, given that only 35 Texan cheerleaders are selected each year from 900 who try out.


The Official Launch:

The Houston Texans cheerleaders will show off the squad's first-ever calendar today.


Watch an interview with Larisa and Marisa here.

Online home of the Houston Texans Cheerleaders here.

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