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The Eagles christened Lincoln Financial Field with a win against the Minnesota Vikings, but Monday’s game was also the home opener for another team in green: the Eagles cheerleaders.
The 32-member co-ed dance squad is responsible for keeping the crowd amped between touchdowns and timeouts, but the gig involves more than sideline routines. Being an NFL cheerleader means balancing late night practices and appearances with full-time day jobs.
The cheer team was busy during this week’s victory, squeezing in new dances between filming a pre-game appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and helping present ex-Eagles coach Dick Vermeil with his Pro Football Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence during halftime.
“You really get to embody what it means to be an Eagles fan as an Eagles cheerleader,” Jaime Gialloreto, who started her second season with the squad this summer, told Billy Penn. “You can actually feel the ground shake on game days because people get so excited.”
Gialloreto, 23, grew up in South Jersey. She cheered and danced through high school before attending Loyola University in Maryland, where she captained the dance team. Becoming an Eagles cheerleader felt inevitable — Gialloreto’s family has held season tickets dating back to when the Birds played at Franklin Field.
“I bled green from the second I was born,” Gialloreto joked. “Part of me knew that, deep down, I always wanted to be on the team.”
Joining the Eagles squad looks a lot like the process on “DCC: Making the Team,” the cult-classic docu-series that follows the audition process for Philly’s rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.
For the Birds, it begins in the spring with an informal (but highly recommended) prep clinic where hopefuls learn a practice routine, no strings attached. From there, knockout style cuts ensue — including a business interview — until the final audition. During Gialloreto’s tryouts in 2021, that meant dancing on the literal Lincoln Financial Field.
“I left that day thinking I had already won,” Gialloreto said. “Performing on that field was a lifelong dream of mine.”
Now, Gialloreto gets to perform on the 50-yard line at least three times per home game: once before kickoff, once after the first quarter, and one last time after the third quarter. In total, she learned around 18 different dance routines this season, though her favorite is the kickoff dance she performed on Monday.
When does Gialloreto learn 18 sets of choreography? During the summertime off-season, plus at twice-weekly practices at the Linc that can often run past 10 p.m..
A typical day for the dancer looks a lot like this: Roll up to her job at a strategic communications firm in full glam with her cheer bags in tow before heading to an early evening appearance for the team. From there, it’s off to rehearsal on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the season — or the rehearsal before the real rehearsal, where the squad shows up early and drills choreography until it becomes muscle memory.
Gialloreto said the biggest misconceptions fans have about NFL cheerleaders is that they don’t get paid, and that all they do is hold down the sidelines. Eagles dancers are compensated like you would be at any part-time job, she said, and are on the hook for performing at events that can range from the groundbreaking of a South Philly rec center to a tour of Ghana, where some squad members kicked off a marketing campaign this spring.
“What fascinated me most when I was joining the team was that [the cheerleaders] are not just entertainers and performers,” Gialloreto said. “We’re really active members of the community.”
Read below for a sneak peak at Gialloreto’s hectic game day schedule, where she fits in episodes of “One Tree Hill” and a call with mom before performing in front of 70k spectators.
Gameday diary by Jaime Gialloreto
9 a.m.: Waking up on gameday morning feels similar to waking up on Christmas morning as a child. I couldn’t be more excited for tonight’s home opener against the Minnesota Vikings. I typically work at my public relations job until 5:30 p.m., but today I wanted time to get into the zone, so I took the entire day off to prepare.
9:30 a.m.: One of my favorite ways to decompress is walking or running along the Schuylkill River Trail. As I take my morning walk, I listen to every song we will perform to tonight, along with some pump-up music (cue Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion).
10:30 a.m.: Fueling your body before gameday is crucial for long-lasting energy. Today’s breakfast includes a spinach omelet, whole wheat toast, and a cup of coffee with brown sugar oat milk creamer.
11:50 a.m.: I keep my uniforms, official practice, and warm-up gear on a garment rack in my bedroom for easy access. I open my team suitcase, backpack and duffle bag and begin loading them with everything I may need for the game. I keep shoes and all clothing items in my suitcase, poms and miscellaneous items in my backpack, and all hair and makeup items in my duffel. Last season, I tried a different packing method for each game, but this seems to keep me the most organized.
12:30 p.m.: After I finish packing, I call my mom. My family is heavily involved in my Eagles cheer journey: My great aunt Rita has had season tickets since the Philadelphia Eagles played at Franklin Field, but she now gives her tickets to all of the Gialloreto cousins so everyone can experience gameday at Lincoln Financial Field. My parents, my cousin Matt, my aunt, and my uncle will all be at tonight’s game.
After we get off the phone, I relax for a bit and watch an episode (or two) of “One Tree Hill,” my current binge show.
3:00 p.m.: I head to my car and drive to Lincoln Financial Field. When I arrive at the Linc, fans have already started tailgating. The excitement of Monday Night Football is in the air.
From there, I head to the cheerleaders’ locker room.
3:45 p.m.: Time to set up my locker. My team has thoughtful squad captains who decorated our lockers to get us pumped for the night ahead. I unpack all my belongings and fill my plate with tomato salad. Every gameday, the cheerleaders have a full catering spread to keep us fueled throughout the game.
4:15 p.m.: We have a new Eagles cheerleaders’ tradition this year. Before each game, the squad captains present four gameday MVPs. It’s a great way to recognize all the hard work that each member of the team contributes on and off the field, since all of us are either working or enrolled in college full-time. Some of my teammates work as chemists, published authors, and historians.
After this, we have a 20-year anniversary celebration for the director of entertainment teams, Barbara Zaun. Our team surprised her with flowers, a cake, and a picture frame with some special photos before we head to rehearsal. Barbara pours her heart into this organization, and we are grateful to have her in our corner.
4:30 p.m.: It is field rehearsal time. Choreographer Brielle Gatto Lucas leads us through our positions, routines, player introduction formations, and more. Field rehearsal is critical because we take each formation that we build in the dance studio and transition them to the 50-yard line and the two end zones.
We also run through our halftime formation for former Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence ceremony.
5:00 p.m.: We practice any corrections and run through notes for each routine in the dance studio. Studio rehearsal is the final time we practice each dance, so we want to ensure that every correction has been noted and rehearsed.
After that, the locker room is buzzing as my teammates and I eagerly await kickoff. We get gameday glam with our hair and makeup team from Joseph Anthony Retreat Spa & Salon.
6:30 p.m.: Pre-game appearances are underway. Our four squad captains head out to film a media hit for — drumroll please — “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” We even have the opportunity to meet “Abbott Elementary”‘s Emmy-winning creator, Quinta Brunson. I do my best to contain myself, but I’m fangirling hard.
There are a handful of other celebrities in attendance for Monday Night Football: Bradley Cooper (!!!!), James Harden, and Bryce Harper, just to name a few.
8:00 p.m.: Our entire team is back in the locker room to stretch. After that, we all form a circle and each share a note to remember for each performance, do our squad chant, and make our way to the tunnel to line up for pregame.
We wish each other luck as we head out to perform in front of the best fans in the NFL.
8:15 p.m.: Drumline begins their performance and we walk in formation onto the field. Right after that, the cheerleader introduction begins and we perform our pregame routine, which preps the stadium to erupt in the Birds fight song.
From there, our squad stands in our “tunnel lines” for the players to run through as they enter the field. Navy Petty Officer First Class Retired Generald Wilson performs the national anthem. Fireworks go off at the end, and I happy cry without fail every time … I can’t help it.
8:30 p.m.: It’s time for some Monday Night Football on ESPN. Each time the Eagles score a touchdown, we perform the fight song on the field or in the end zone. That feeling will never get old. Every time I look into the crowd as the fight song plays, I remind myself of how grateful I am for this job.
9:45 p.m.: During halftime, we surround Eagles legend Dick Vermeil as he is presented with his Pro Football Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence. It is truly an honor to be a part of these historic Eagles moments.
11:15 p.m.: Celebrations commence. The Eagles win their first home game of the season. As a team, we celebrate on the sidelines, take a “victory” photo, and head back in the locker room. There, we watch our teammates appear on “Jimmy Kimmel.”
11:45 p.m.: My belongings are packed and we make our way to our cars. I mentally prepare myself to sit in traffic, but truly nothing can break my spirit tonight. If today is indicative of the season ahead, I cannot wait to see what’s in store.
Being an Eagles cheerleader is a gift I do not take for granted. To be surrounded by some of the most accomplished women and men I have ever met each day is a blessing.
I get home around midnight, exhausted and happy. Goodnight and — obviously — go Birds.