Y O U R O T H E R L I F E
"Gimme an 'R!'"
As a college cheerleader for the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), Talmesha Richards got the chance to perform in front of 50,000 cheering fans at a Washington Redskins game. "It was such a rush. But the two minutes went by so quickly," she says. So the Baltimore native decided to set her sights high — she tried out for a spot on the cheerleading squad of the Baltimore Ravens.
The first year she tried out, Richards didn't make it past the first cut. The second year, she progressed to the second round. The third time, this past March, "turned out to be the charm!" she says, smiling. This season she is among the 39 women and 17 men who comprise the 2005 Ravens squad. "We're the only professional NFL team left with male cheerleaders," she notes. The autumn, not surprisingly, passed in a whirl for Richards, who is now a second-year graduate student in the lab of breast cancer researcher Nancy Davidson at the School of Medicine. The Ravens squad practices twice each week — physically grueling workouts that start with a three-mile run. On Baltimore game days (and nights), she must get to M&T Stadium several hours early to warm up, have her hair and make-up done, and to do pre-game appearances. "My favorite part of the whole thing is interacting with the fans; we do a lot of charity appearances," says Richards, who grew up not far from the Homewood campus.
Once she completes her PhD in cellular and molecular medicine, Richards expects to pursue a research career in academic medicine. But that's several years off. Before that, there's the 2006 Ravens post-season to consider.
"If they go to the Super Bowl, we go to the Super Bowl,"
Richards says. "I'm praying for the Super Bowl!"
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