Luke Jackson has been involved in every aspect of competitive and recreational cheerleading. Originally from West Virginia, Jackson was a varsity cheerl eader with West Virginia University for four years, cheered internationally in co-ed competitions and has coached throughout his career.
After moving to the D.C. area with his husband Andy, Jackson stepped into a leadership role with Cheer D.C., which utilizes cheerleading to promote spirit and elevate acceptance and equality for the LGBT community. He is also coaching at South County High School.
The only aspect missing was professional cheerleading and earlier this year, Jackson was selected to the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleading team. The Ravens remain as the only NFL team to have a co-ed stunting team. The squad consists of 35 women who perform stunts and dances along with 23 men who perform stunts.
The Ravens Cheerleaders perform multiple types of stunts that range from three bases and a flyer to individual partner stunting. To get back into top shape, Jackson put himself through intense training leading up to his tryout.
“A typical session was running on the treadmill, throwing a training partner, running back to the treadmill and then throwing her again,” Jackson says.
The tryouts for the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders are a four-step process. On day one, Jackson threw one stunt with a female cheerleader and was invited back.
On day two he was paired with a veteran cheerleader for safety reasons and performed more stunts, tumbling and an interview session. He highlighted his work with Cheer D.C. during the interview and received positive feedback. Day three was another 20-minute interview.
The final tryout took place at the Under Armour practice stadium and was a grueling session of throwing stunt after stunt with every girl on the team. Jackson made the cut and was sent for the group picture.
“I have cheered for so many cheer organizations and the Baltimore Ravens are loving, kind and supportive of everyone on our team,” Jackson says. “From the moment you walk in until the moment you leave, it is serious but also so much fun. Practices are hard and safety is a focus. After each training session, we do two-and-a-half hours of CrossFit.”
The Baltimore Ravens had their first preseason home game against the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, the first game for Jackson as a Baltimore Ravens Cheerleader. He was hoping the moment brought back the same feelings he had in college.
“The Ravens have a marching band and I am looking forward to hearing the band music blowing, throwing stunts and that feeling of doing something you love in front of thousands of people,” Jackson says. “I am hoping for the same chills I got when I was a West Virginia Mountaineer.”