In sports, as in life, there are leaders and followers.
For Ryann, the New York Jets Flight Crew’s Gameday Girl for Monday night’s Jets-Houston game, leading and following both carry significant meanings.
Now in her sixth season with the cheerleading squad, Ryann is one of just two members who have been involved with the team since it was formed in 2007.
“My first year I was only 18 years old,” Ryann said. “I was dancing with girls that were a lot older than me and I looked up to them so much. They were the greatest things ever. They were just unbelievable. I wanted to be like each and every one of them. Everyone has something different to offer. So for me to now be in that spot, it’s a great feeling.”
Serving as a team captain for the past four seasons, Ryann has embraced her duty of preparing and providing encouragement to the younger dancers.
“It’s nice to be able to give back," she said, "because at one point I was there."
It was nearly 20 years ago when Ryann set off on her dance career. While today she is happy as ever, her early years in the sport weren’t as pleasing.
“I started in basic tap/jazz combo, which I absolutely hated,” she said. “But I stuck through it for a couple of years, and by the time I was 10, I absolutely loved it. I wanted to be in every single class that they offered and that’s what I did. I signed up and I made it my goal to be the best that I could be in each and every one of my classes.”
That driven mindset guided Ryann to become not only a member of her high school’s cheerleading squad but also a part of its kickline team. While kickline includes strictly dancing, Ryann said being associated with it back then helped her get to where she is today, especially because the Flight Crew’s kickline is a key part of a typical gameday routine.
“Not all high school teams have it,” she said. “I felt very lucky and honored to be a part of it. Our team was great. We rehearsed all the time. We practiced every day after school. It was definitely very rigorous, but it was so exciting. It was the coolest team to be a part of.”
Ryann went on to be a dance major at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University before moving on to the professional stage with the Jets.
This season Ryann is a part of the Flight Crew’s first-year New York Show Team. The Show Team is a select group of 12 women who perform a five-minute routine before each Jets home game at the Verizon Gate entrance of MetLife Stadium. The dancers are in costumes and the music selection comes from the Broadway and hip-hop genres.
“Every girl on the Show Team brings something different to the team,” she said. "It presents the best of the best of our team, and it’s nice that we can really portray that at a home game.”
There have been numerous special moments for Ryann during her six years with the Flight Crew. Nothing stands above when she was selected to attend the Pro Bowl in Honolulu after the 2008 season.
“I think the highest level that any NFL team is going to send a girl out is going to be the Pro Bowl,” she said. “By the time I went, we were still only established two years. We were still new. The Jets, before 2007, had never sent a girl out. So it was such an honor to be able to go out to Hawaii and represent the New York Jets in the Pro Bowl.”
As the Jets’ 2012 season progresses, Ryann will continue leading her Flight Crew teammates. She said the squad supports the Jets week in and week out and every year they try to attend a road game to cheer on the Green & White. She’s seen the Flight Crew grow from 10 members in its first season to 40 presently. And while the pressure rises each year for her and her teammates, she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“You have to give it 100 percent no matter what it is,” she said. “Being a cheerleader isn’t about cheering. It’s not about just dancing. It’s not about just the performance. There’s so many more things behind it. You have to really know how to command attention on the field. You have to be a humble girl. You have to be appreciative for everything you get. You have to know that you’re not going to get everything that the NFL has to offer. But one day it’s going to come to you.”