PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles have unveiled their cheerleading squad for the upcoming season. Among the members of the squad, University of the Arts student Kyle Tanguay.
It turns out Tanguay is following in the footsteps of another man who was with the Birds’ squad more than 30 years ago.
When 21-year-old dance student Tanguay took a big bow and received those proud hugs, some were quick to celebrate his as the first male member of the Eagles cheerleading squad.
But that’s not the case, not by 35 years.
“I was on the team in the 1984-85 season and it actually happened on a fluke,” Mark Merschen said.
In 1984, Merschen was a professional rollerskater and after happening upon Eagles cheer tryouts, he decided on a whim to give it a go.
“I made up my mind. I said if I make it past this first cut, I’m going all the way,” Merschen said.
And he did. Along with dancer Paul Kramer, the two became the fist male cheerleaders for the Eagles.
And with that, the Eagles first male cheerleader met the newest.
“I said the worst thing that could happen, similar to [Merschen], is they’ll just tell me no and I’ll just go home,” Tanguay said.
Of course, that was not the case.
“I had heard from other teams in the NFL that there were also men in the ’80s, so I knew it had been a thing before,” Tanguay said.
In the 1980s, the two male cheerleaders performed all the same dance routines as the women. Tanguay will do the same, but he had a question.
“What did your parents say when you came home and was like ‘I tried out to be an NFL cheerleader today?” Tanguay asked Merschen.
“I don’t think it quite hit them,” Merschen replied.
For the barrier Merschen helped to break, Tanguay was ready with a gift.
“The Eagles, we wanted to offer you two tickets to any home game of your choice this season and two pregame field passes. We thought it would be really awesome for you to come down and talk to the entire squad,” Tanguay told Merschen.
Both agree that, then and now, Eagles fans have been supportive. Though 35 years separate their experiences, it is one that very few share.
Tanguay says he wants the door for male cheerleaders in the NFL to stay open from now on. And for Merschen, he still dances and he’s excited about taking the Eagles up on their offer to have him attend a game and speak with the Eagles cheer squad.
The Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints also have male cheerleaders dancing on their squads.