Sebring’s Ryan Schuffert always pictured himself standing on the college football sidelines on Saturday afternoons during the fall. It was as a football player, however, not as a cheerleader, but things don’t always work out as planned — and many times that’s for the best, as Schuffert will be attending the University of Central Florida as a member of the Knights’ highly regarded cheer squad.
“I played football my whole life and thought I was going to play football in college,” he said. “I decided I’d try [cheerleading] when football was over and I liked it.”
Being a football player and a cheerleader may seem like polar opposites, but Schuffert said what most people see cheerleaders doing on Friday nights and what takes place at the big competitions are where the real differences are.
“Competition is totally different,” he said. “It’s a different atmosphere. It’s competitive and a football player is competitive and they feed off that atmosphere.”
Schuffert is the second straight football player to join Sebring’s cheerleading team and then receive an offer to cheer for UCF, as Damian Thompson pulled off the same feat last year.
“Damian started it and I saw his success and I thought ‘same size, same kind of attributes as him, same speed’ and I thought I could have the same kind of success as him and have a chance at a state ring,” Schuffert said. “We didn’t win state and that was disappointing but it turned out pretty well because I got a college deal out of it.”
Sebring cheerleading coach Carolyn Shoemaker believes football players have been able to make the transition to cheerleading because they bring the proper mindset with them.
“We really have great luck with our football players because (coach) LaVaar (Scott) teaches them a great work ethic and when they come in they’re ready to go,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than a lot of them think it’s going to be.”
Shoemaker believes Schuffert will do just fine at Central Florida and believes having Thompson — who “also made the team again this year — close by will be an added benefit.
He came along really quickly, obviously, to come out in the first year and never having cheered and then make it on a team like UCF, which is the top of the top,” she said. “We’re very excited to go watch him this year. He’s a good kid and comes from a really good family. Plus they won’t have to worry about grades, he’s real smart.”
Schuffert, who will be leaving for school in August, plans to major in sports and exercise science with a pre-med track and go to into pre-med.
He said it was fellow cheerleader Mariah Cardona who was instrumental in getting him to go out for the team.
“She told me to come out and try it and I actually liked it,” he said.
Schuffert said the tryout process was a bit nerve-wracking at times, but he was definitely happy with the way things turned out.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I was a little nervous for a bit because it was really a good group that tried out and I was just happy to make the cut.”