It started out as a joke, but the more he thought about it, the more serious he felt about doing it.
Offseason workouts for football hadn’t started yet, and Benjamin Gannon, a senior offensive and defensive lineman at Richmond High School, had time. He grabbed a friend for support, and went for it.
What did Gannon do, exactly? He joined the cheerleading squad. His friend eventually quit, but not Gannon.
“I stayed with it, and it was fun. Something different,” Gannon said.
Gannon has been playing football since his freshman year of high school, and during the offseason of his sophomore year, he decided to do something different to stay in shape for football. In doing so, his perception of cheerleading changed.
“Cheerleading is [definitely] a sport,” Gannon said. “ I had to keep up with them, and I couldn’t do it. It’s difficult but it’s fun.
Gannon spent most of his time as a yell leader –bellowing chants into a megaphone to get the crowd energized—but on occasion would serve as a base—one of the people who supports cheerleaders during acrobatics—for some of the more complicated routines.
Aside from the athletic benefits, Gannon gained valuable interpersonal skills as a member of the squad. “They do this unity circle thing where they circle up and talk about what’s going on,” he said. “So that gave me more of a teamwork mentality.”
While cheerleading is often perceived as easy or soft, that’s not how one would describe Gannon. According to his coaches, he’s one of the toughest linemen on the field.
Though cheerleading was a valuable experience, the gridiron is where Gannon feels he truly belongs.
“I love football,” Gannon said. “It didn’t hit me how much I loved it until after my sophomore year when I got moved up to varsity. I have to show that I’m tough and not afraid of these guys.”
This year, Gannon has some big goals he wants to accomplish before the season ends.
“I want to get All-League again. I want to get more awards, as many as I can,” he said. “I’d like to get an athletic scholarship but the coaches are telling me I’m too short. But if I ever get my chance, I will prove them wrong.”
Despite the odds against him, Gannon pours everything he has into football, and his reason for doing so is simple: he has the support of his coaches and his family, encouraging to stay the course and keep improving.
“When you’re told you’re good at something, you want to keep doing it,” he said.
Gannon is interested in going to college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Davis, San Jose State or the University of Hawaii. Gannon says his coaches have been an essential part of his campaign to get into college: They make sure their players keep their grades high enough to be competitive.
Now that the football season has started, Gannon has traded in his cheerleading uniform for a football jersey, but he credits both for shaping him into the person that he is today. Cheer gave him friends—especially the female variety—and confidence. Football gave him purpose, Gannon said.
“Football changed my life, a lot. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or how I was gonna get there until football. I rarely watched football,” Gannon said. “I didn’t know anything about it. And here I am now.”