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When the Eagles play their first home game of the season on Sunday, there will be plenty of new faces around Lincoln Financial Field — including first year cheerleader James LeGette.
LeGette is one of two men on the cheer squad this year, following in the footsteps of Kyle Tanguay, who in 2019 became the Eagles’ first male cheerleader in 35 years.
Interestingly, cheerleading began as an all-male sport. When stunt acts became common entertainment during athletic events in the 1800s, women were banned from the squads. The practice continued up until the world wars, when most young, able men were drafted into combat and women began to take their place. Over the following century, male cheerleaders in pro sports became rare.
But narrative has been changing in the NFL in the past few years, with the Birds at the forefront of the progress.
LeGette is excited to be part of the movement. We sat down with him (over Zoom) to find out 10 things to know about the newest addition to the Eagles cheerleading squad.
He’s a Philadelphian through and through
Although he currently resides in Bucks County, where his parents moved when he was 6 years old, LeGette was born in the city, and considers it his true home. No matter where life takes him, he said he’ll always be a kid from Philly.
He didn’t make the team in his first tryout
LeGette first thought about auditioning for the team two years ago, but didn’t actually go for it. Then he saw Tanguay make the squad. “I’m like, well, a guy can do this too. He inspired me to actually try out and start breaking some barriers,” LeGette said.
He auditioned in 2020, and got pretty far, but not all the way. But he persevered, and this year was chosen. The audition has actually always been open to male participants, he said. “I’m pretty grateful to be a part of an organization that’s inclusive, inclusive and welcoming as the Eagles.”
He was teaching dance class when he got the news
At a local dance recital, LeGette was in the middle of videoing students doing a piece he choreographed when he saw the email pop up on his phone. He immediately switched over to read what it said — and broke down crying.
“I told the studio owner, she also started crying. And she announced to everyone that was at the recital that I did make the team,” he recalled. His students ran up to him and started showering him with hugs. “It was probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
His family is full of diehard Eagles fans
Unofficially, LeGette has been cheering for the team his whole life. “Eagles fans. Phillies fans. Flyers, anything Philly, you name it. We’re fans of it,” he said of his family.
It’s the normal thing to do in Philadelphia, he observed. “I would say we have the most passionate fans ever. Because you know, sports is the way of life here in Philly … our fans live and breathe Philly sports 365 days a year.” He added that “you could feel the electricity” in the atmosphere at the preseason games at the Linc this summer.
He fell in love with dance at Sesame Place
As a kid, LeGette was more into singing than dancing, but always found himself being placed in the front row of school performances. “Everyone started saying how great of a dancer I was,” he said. “I’m like, well ok. So I started to stick with it.”
He got a job dancing at Sesame Place, performing alongside Elmo, Big Bird, and Grover, and that’s where it clicked. This is what he wanted to do with his life. “I started enrolling myself in classes and after that I just fell in love with it. It became my biggest passion.”
The cheer squad makes 300 appearances a year
Eagles cheerleaders have official practices two or three times a week, but beyond that there are also appearances — up to 300 of them each year, at various local gatherings and with different charitable organizations. There are big events like the Eagles Autism Challenge, and smaller things like a recent playground build.
“So it’s a lot,” LeGette said, “but it’s also worth it to be out there with our community, and helping out and giving back to others.”
He also volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters
Volunteering has always been a big part of LeGette’s life. He’s been a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters for the last five years, and said he meets his mentee, Oscar, at least two days a week.
“I was able to show Oscar what’s right from wrong and teach him … how to go about certain scenarios when it comes to his personal life,” LeGette said. “I did it so I can change his perspective on life — but I didn’t know that he was also going to change my perspective in life as well.”
And, yes, LeGette said Oscar is definitely going to a Eagles game at some point this season.
Education is another passion
A graduate of Bucks County Community College, LeGette is continuing to take classes as he studies for a full degree. Meanwhile, he also works as an instructional assistant at Maple Point Middle School, and hopes to continue down that path.
“In about five years, if I’m still not performing, I would absolutely love to have my own classroom,” LeGette said.
He hopes to inspire other male cheerleaders.
At least 11 NFL teams have men on their cheer squads, according to an NYU Journalism reporter, so male cheerleaders are represented in a little over a third of the league.
One of LeGette’s goals is to help more men join the professional ranks. “I hope that what I’m doing and what all the other male cheerleaders are doing inspires more males to pursue their passions,” he said.
Friends hit him up for tickets — and he loves it
Do people he knows who hear about his new gig ask for tickets? No doubt.
“A lot of my friends asked about going to games,” LeGette said, “and that’s totally fine. I love when people come to support [me] and the Eagles, and the whole organization.”