While Eric DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome are busy putting their final grades on the Draft Class of 2008, there was recently another important set of evaluations going on at Ravens headquarters.
After three rounds of tryouts and hours of debate, the Ravens' 2008 Cheerleading Squad was finalized last week.
Two hundred hopefuls came to the first open audition, held March 1. Since then, that list was whittled down to the final 56, a group that includes 22 dancers and 34 stunt team members.
Ravens cheerleading coordinator Tina Galdieri is ecstatic with the result of scrutinizing everything from appearance, dancing ability, coachability, charisma and personality for each applicant.
"We've got a great group of cheerleaders that is really a combination of glamour, poise and talent," said Galdieri. "Once the season starts and we've got the best squad we can put on the field, all of that hard work will be worth it."
But, it was not all about how well the girls could learn a routine to Janet Jackson's "Fearless." Everyone is subject to an in-depth interview with the coaches, similar to what Newsome and DeCosta may hold with a talented draft prospect.
Even if a cheerleader has made the cut in the past, he or she must try out again for the judges. While having a background knowledge of what Galdieri and Co. are looking for is somewhat of an advantage over newcomers, the feeling that nobody is safe is unsettling.
"Working with the coaches for a year - practicing twice a week and on game days - it was comforting knowing what they were expecting in regards to performance and the dance," said Kate S., who enters her second year with the Ravens. "It's nerve-wracking sitting around and waiting to hear your number. Mine always happens to be near the end, so there is always that thought in the back of your mind."
In the end, 37 veterans still had the stuff to be a Ravens cheerleader. They are joined by 19 wide-eyed rookies, many of whom have felt goosebumps since the decision was made.
"I think I'm still in shock," newcomer Sammi Jo C. said with a laugh. "Going in, I was just hoping that I was going to make it, but I went in without any expectations. It was always something that I really wanted to do, and right now was as good a time as any.
"You're definitely nervous starting out, but once I made it past that first round, I got really excited."
Still, rookies like Sammi Jo are thankful for generous help from the veterans throughout the process. She described a time when Ravens cheerleader Melissa was quick with a new set of pantyhose after hers caught a snag during one of the tryout sessions.
"The girls that I interacted with were so great," stated Sammi Jo. "Even though it was a competition, they were all still there to help."
While the Ravens are the only NFL club to have a co-ed stunt group, they are joining the ranks of many teams with the announcement of a cheerleader swimsuit calendar that will be shot in mid-May in the Dominican Republic.
Both Kate and Sammi Jo will take part in the trip, along with 14 other lucky cheerleaders in tropical Punta Cana.
Kate sees it as a perfect opportunity to learn more about the new additions to the squad.
"I am so thrilled to be chosen for the calendar," she said. "It's going to be a great chance for us to bond with some of the girls."
Sammi Jo, on the other hand, is still blinking after her unexpected rise from high school teacher and cheerleading coach to the professional ranks - and perhaps her own featured month in the Ravens' calendar.
"I'm so excited about the amazing trip to the Dominican," she explained. "The kids I teach don't know about the calendar or even that I've made the squad yet, because I know once that gets out, they're going to let me hear about it.
"The calendar is definitely something I did not expect."
BaltimoreRavens.com will bring you exclusive coverage from the cheerleader calendar shoot, as well as a re-vamped cheerleader page with new photos and bios once they become available in May. And if you would like to meet the new cheerleaders, the squad will be making its first appearance together at the Spring Football Festival, held at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday, April 26.