Column: Male cheerleaders: ‘Only the elite can hold a girl’s feet’

Column: Male cheerleaders: ‘Only the elite can hold a girl’s feet’

Looking for a date Saturday?

There’s some perfect ones on the cheerleading team – they’ll even talk a little football with you.

Just hope you don’t mind a little back hair, that’s all.

It’s tough not to notice the mini-skirt-wearing girls of Northeastern’s cheerleading squad at any football or basketball game, but it’s the ones standing behind them that are worthy of a double take.

Their male counterparts – those dudes are huge.

I know what you must be thinking: male cheerleaders? Seriously, there’s more testosterone in a can of Michelob Ultra light beer!

But look no further than Stephen Pawlyk, a graduate student studying criminology, to change your mind. Pawlyk has been a squad member since he was a freshman, and has remained so into his years as a graduate student, as there are no limits on eligibility.

Pawlyk’s numbers speak for themselves: he’s a 5-foot, 10-inch, 215-pound demolition ball of a man who can bench press 495 pounds and curl 175.

And he’s no softy either.

“I’ve done hockey, basketball and football in the past, but cheerleading has been the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done,” Pawlyk said. “I’ve never been hurt playing sports until I began cheerleading. I’ve had injuries on both of my shoulders and reconstructive surgery on both of my knees.”

Want to feel a burn? Do what Pawlyk does from 6 to 9 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – toss 100 pounds in the air over and over again, mixed in with repetitions of lifting the same weight over your head using your shoulders and triceps.

Only Pawlyk doesn’t use weights. He uses a girl in a skirt.

“With cheerleading you get the competition of every sport with the physical aspect. Everyone here is stronger than the average person,” Pawlyk said. “Plus you get the female aspect – you’re here with the ladies all the time.”

If you’re still not impressed, perhaps you should take a cue from the late Celtics coach Red Auerbach. Over the last two years, Pawlyk was a member of the Celtics stunt team and ran into him a few times. Even Auerbach, who was famously anti-Celtics cheerleaders, had good things to say.

“Even though he might not have wanted cheerleaders, he still appreciated us and congratulated us on a good job,” Pawlyk said. “I’m not much of a basketball fan, but it’s an honor to meet someone great, no matter where they’re from.”

Pawlyk’s captain, Andrew Healey, is no slouch himself. With roughly the same build, Healey also played typical sports in his younger years. Then he found the spirit.

“I tried everything until my junior year in high school,” Healey said. “But then my senior year of high school, my friend convinced me to join and I loved it.”

There’s no overstatement in Healey’s words – he really does love cheerleading, as does the rest of his squad. Besides practicing three days a week, Healey and the rest of the 31 members have gymnastics training Fridays from 7:30 to 9 p.m. and an entire day of practice every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And in their spare time, Healey and the other 15 dudes on the squad go to the gym. They go twice a day, before and after practice.

For comparison, sometimes I take a cab from campus to my apartment on Mission Hill because I don’t feel like walking.

“We throw girls five to 30 feet in the air at any time,” Healey said. “There’s a lot of hand-eye coordination.”

Well I’d certainly hope so.

Oh, there’s more to male cheerleading than throwing girls and being huge. To be a success the boys on the squad have to earn the trust of their female counterparts. Could you imagine being thrown thirty feet in the air with only a nitwit between you and the ground?

“If you don’t earn their trust the girls won’t want anything to do with you,” said Chris Lawler, who is in his third year on the squad. “And you can really hurt somebody.”

Lawler has two outstanding qualities. At 31 he may be the oldest cheerleader in New England, and one thing is for sure: he’s certainly the hairiest.

And if fur is your thing and you’re looking for a date, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Chris is engaged.

“I just got engaged in December,” he said. “We actually met at a Patriots game. It’s kind weird how it happened. That’d be a whole other article.”

Obviously she doesn’t mind being married to a male cheerleader. But that back hair might be a different story.

– Matt Foster can be reached for comment at [email protected]

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