If the Baltimore Ravens are fortunate to make it to the Super Bowl in New Orleans next month, the team's cheerleader squad will be on hand to root them on to victory.
The weekend before the Super Bowl, one member of the Ravens cheerleader squad who lives in Bel Air will be traveling to Hawaii to cheer and represent her team and her fellow squad members at the Jan. 27 Pro Bowl game in Honolulu.
"This is a big honor for me to go to the Pro Bowl," said "Angel," short for Angelica, who has been a Ravens cheerleader for six years. (Ravens officials ask that last names not be used in stories for the security of the cheerleaders.)
Angel, who is 25, said she has been cheering since she was 4 years old, when she started in a rec program in Overlea. Originally from the Parkville area, she and her family have lived in Bel Air for a number of years.
Angel graduated from Mercy High School in Northeast Baltimore and attended Harford Community College. She works at Johns Hopkins Medical System in East Baltimore in the radiology department. Both her parents work at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air.
For the Pro Bowl, each NFL team with a cheerleading squad selects one representative. Angel said she's looking forward to that trip and, if the Ravens don't make it all the way, she'll leave Hawaii and head to Japan for a USO Armed Forces Entertainment Tour. She previously traveled overseas with the USO to the Middle East.
Cheerleading is very competitive, particularly at the NFL level. Angel, who also has served as captain of the Ravens squad for three years, said the annual tryouts typically bring out upward of 400 young women for the squad. There are 38 spots on the squad.
"It's a big deal," she said about making the squad, which even returning members have to try out for again.
In addition to Angel, three other Harford County women are on the current squad, and several alumni live in the area.
The cheerleading squad is at all the Ravens' home games at M&T Bank Stadium. The women don't travel to away games and the majority of them, like Angel, have regular jobs and other careers.
Angel admits to being something of a cheerleading lifer, having started at such a young age and working up through youth competition, cheering in high school (for teams at an all-girls school, which she concedes isn't as much fun as cheering for the purple and black) to the ultimate in high octane cheering on the NFL stage.
She's developed a fan base all her own, judging from some of the photos her fans have sent her, and if you are thinking of becoming one after reading this article, catch her while you can. After six years and doing a lot with the Ravens organization, Angel said she thinks this will be her last year.