Friday, February 01, 2008

A Super experience: Swampscott woman part of Patriots cheerleading squad 

Posted by Sasha at 3:40 PM ET

By Alan Burke
Staff writer
Salem News
January 31, 2008

SWAMPSCOTT - Swampscott is famous for sending talented athletes to the National Football League. So it's no surprise that the town will be represented at Sunday's Super Bowl game.

Yet Danielle Lannon, 20, won't be knocking heads with the New York Giants. Instead, she's one of 24 New England Patriots cheerleaders, and she intends to have an impact.

"I never would have expected this when I tried out last March," a thrilled Lannon said yesterday as she drove to Logan Airport for the trip to Arizona. Ahead of her is an inside look at America's ultimate event, an extraordinary and long weekend of receptions, VIP parties, promotional appearances, charitable activities, and then, finally, the big game itself.

Lannon doesn't really know what to expect.

"We're going to find out what happens day by day," she said. "I'm really excited."

Swampscott's Big Blue football program prepared four alumni who made it to the NFL: present Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron, a former defensive back for the Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals; Billy Adams, who played for Buffalo in the 1970s; Tommy Toner, who played five seasons for the Green Bay Packers; and Ed Toner Jr., who played with the Colts and Steelers in the early 1990s.

A childhood of dance routines and early mornings at cold skating rinks prepared Lannon for her current role with football's premiere team, which she won after competing against 300 other young women in Foxboro.

A Swampscott High graduate, she now attends Salem State College, studying sports, fitness and leisure. Ultimately, she wants to teach dancing or figure skating.

"I've been a figure skater and a dancer my whole life," she said.

Her biggest moment so far was "the first preseason game. It was just walking onto the field at Gillette Stadium with 70,000 fans all around me. It was really cool just to walk on the field. ... All the Patriots fans are great."

The cheerleaders approach their duties with professionalism. During games, three lines of eight take turns on the field.

"We all get to cheer," Lannon said.

At the same time, they take an interest in what's happening on the gridiron.

"We turn around and watch every play," she said. "We're all huge football fans."

Cheerleaders draw an hourly salary.

"I look at it as an experience," Lannon said. The money is scarcely the point. "It's a part-time job."

As a football fan from a family of football fans, Lannon expects that mom Susanne, dad Steven, a younger brother and a younger sister will be watching closely on Sunday, tracking the progress of Tom Brady and Randy Moss - and Danielle.

"It's incredible," Susanne said. "She's having the time of her life. It's such a great opportunity. She's meeting a lot of people. ... And she loves it."

Steven Lannon has been to all the games in Foxboro. Moreover, the family records others hoping to catch a glimpse.

"But they don't usually show them too much," Susanne said. When they do, the family goes for the "pause" button on the recorder.

Even established cheerleaders must audition each year, Danielle Lannon said. Their tenure is limited to three years. For her part, she doesn't sound like someone who's ready to stop cheering.

Squad members don't ordinarily mingle with the Patriots players.

"Occasionally, we'll see them around," Lannon said.

Even so, when it comes to Sunday's game, Lannon has great confidence in them. "We all have faith in our team. We cheer them on."

She's planning to be part of Tuesday's victory parade in Boston.

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