Growing up in Hancock County, Riley Reed said, she and her family were part of the Black and Gold Brigade. With the Superdome was just an hour west, many South Mississippi families cheer for the New Orleans Saints.
And Reed will still cheer for the Saints when they take the field — as long as they aren’t playing the Atlanta Falcons.
Reed, 25, is on the Falcons cheerleading squad. This is her second year wearing the red, black and white two-piece uniform with white leather boots.
And though she still likes and roots for the Saints, you’re way more likely to see her post “Rise Up!” on Facebook rather than “Who Dat?”
Last year, when the Saints played the Falcons, Reed said she was a tad nervous.
“I thought I was going to be so torn,” she said. “I thought it was going to be so hard and I would be cheering for both teams. When (the game) actually happened, I was all Falcons.”
Reed, who graduated from Hancock High School in 2009, has been dancing since she was 2 years old. She trained at The Dance Company in Diamondhead, and she said hip-hop was always her favorite genre.
When she graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi and made her way to Baton Rouge, she thought her friends and family would be seeing her from the sidelines of the Superdome.
“Growing up, I always thought that I would try out for the Saintsations (Saints cheerleading squad),” she said. “When I decided that Baton Rouge wasn’t for me, I moved to Atlanta, but I wasn’t even thinking about trying out for the Falcons.”
When she got to Atlanta, though, she found out she had just enough time to prepare for Falcons cheer auditions if she wanted to try out. She didn’t know a soul, but she wanted to go for it.
She said hundreds of women try out for the squad, and the coaches choose 36. The four-day audition is intense, she said.
“It’s such a fast-paced week and it’s competitive, but it’s so rewarding when you make the team.
“It’s a great experience.”
Reed, who is in sales for a media group, said she loves dancing with the Falcons squad and participating in community events. She said she will try out for the Falcons squad every year she is able.
And as for her parents, she said they’ve also made the switch and become Falcons fans. They come to games to watch her cheer all the time, she said.
“They’re great support,” she said.
Cheerleaders by the numbers
26 — Number of NFL teams that field cheerleading squads. (Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay, New York Giants and Pittsburgh do not.)
796 — Number of cheerleaders on NFL squads
1954 — The first year a cheerleading squad was fielded, by the Baltimore Colts
$79-$150 — Average weekly pay for an NFL cheerleader ($500-$750 per season)