Javier "Jay" Sylvester hopes to give long-ignored sport the respect it deserves.
Javier Sylvester's original plan was something like: punch front, punch front, roundoff back handspring, Arabian through the double and then punch back through the kick double. Even though he messed up on his punch run, he still saved the pass.
Now, if you know Sylvester as the running back for the Seabreeze High School Sandcrabs, you might be confused by this lingo. But you see, he's not just a football player. He's also a cheerleader — a really good one.
Sylvester, who's currently in his senior year, was one of 10 male cheerleaders chosen for So You Think You Can Tumble. Hundreds of athletes sent videos in for consideration to be able to participate in the event held at Cheersport, and though he didn't place champion, his coaches and teammates still credit him for hard work.
"I was so upset backstage," Sylvester chuckled. "I did what I wanted to do, but it didn't go according to plan."
"He's hard on himself," said Brian Furber, owner of Sylvester's team Amped Athletix. "It was still amazing."
At first, Sylvester didn't want to be a cheerleader.
Former Seabreeze Cheerleading Coach (and current Amped Athletix's coach) Jerry Sasser saw him and a friend doing a couple flips and asked them to come out to the gym. Sylvester declined the offer until his friend went and told him how much fun it was.
"I've been here ever since," he said.
As for his teammates out on the football field, Sylvester said no one has ever really given him a hard time. In fact, a couple of them wanted to try it out for themselves.
"For co-ed cheerleading, people like Jay are making it more popular," Furber said. "Before, guys would be laughed at for cheering. Now you got Jay, who's the macho football player, not only cheering, but succeeding at it and becoming one of the top 10 in the country in a certain position. It's incredible."
Sasser, who claims to be the first cheerleader/football player combo out of Seabreeze, said having these hybrids really helps the sport to gain the respect it deserves.
"If you see guy cheerleaders now, they are 6 feet 2 inches tall, 200 pounds or more," he said. "They're ex-football players, guys that are getting scholarships and other opportunities to showcase their strength."
But the men who compete still don't think cheerleading is given enough credit. Sylvester even went as far to say that it might be harder than football.
"The conditioning is at least the same level as football, and it might be higher actually," he said. "It takes a lot more out of you. Pretty much anyone can play football if you think about it, but for this, you really gotta know your stuff."