Detroit Lions cheer team narrowed to 28 finalists

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Beads of sweat rolled down the faces of 28 finalists for the Detroit Lions cheer team as they practiced holding a pose — hands over their heads — at Ford Field on Thursday night.

Honing the rigorous moves was critical, with football season less than two months away. The final contestants for the cheer team practiced in hopes of gaining a spot on the first squad in more than four decades.

Until then, contestants will learn more than just choreographed dances.

“We have a lot of business training,” said Rebecca Smoker, director of cheerleading for the Lions. “We are teaching the girls about the workings of the organization, how to conduct themselves with the media and public appearances. We want to make sure the ladies are as confident as possible when they step on the stage during the first game.”

The cheer team will be introduced in mid-August, but will make its official debut during the home opener Sept. 18 against the Titans. Officials initially sought 20-25 women, but if they do well, all 28 could get a spot on the team, Smoker said.

Dressed in matching black leggings and Honolulu blue Lions tank tops, the finalists rehearsed to the Lions fight song, “Gridiron Heroes,” as Smoker watched from the sidelines.

“You have to own it,” Smoker said. “The Lions just scored a touchdown. Let’s get the crowd excited.”

While the contestants stopped for a water break, Micah, a former Buccaneers cheerleader, helped some teammates with the routine.

“This has been such a whirlwind experience,” she said. “While we all made it here, the work is still not done. Being a cheerleader in Detroit will be unlike any experience. This is a special and an amazing city.”

Practice is three hours during training camp, but when the season starts, cheerleading rehearsals will be held two days a week.

“The hours required to be on the team would be like a part-time job,” Smoker said. “These girls are beautiful, highly educated and come from all walks of life.”

Stacey, a dance instructor, relished the opportunity.

“Dancing has been my entire life, and to have been chosen to be a part of the first team is really exciting,” she said. “I worked hard. I pursued my dreams and now I can say, I did that.”

ksmith@detroitnews.com