Local New England Patriots fans will have a familiar face on the field this year thanks to Steven Sonntag, a Colchester native who has made the cut for team’s 2019 cheerleading squad.
Sonntag, a 2015 Colchester High School grad, learned the news last week, making him one of the only men to represent the squad in over two decades. He will now attend all the Patriot’s home games in addition to some of the team’s promotional events.
To get to this point, the 22-year-old had to make his way through a month-long audition process in which he and nearly 200 other applicants performed several dances before a panel of judges, including a choreographed routine taught by the squad’s dance trainer, prior to a round of final auditions at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
From there, a group of 50 hopefuls attended a two-week bootcamp at Gillette Stadium, where they performed routines and participated in public speaking, media practice and team bonding drills.
The team’s website says the bootcamp is modeled to give applicants a look at what an “average day” in the life of a Patriots cheerleader looks like if they made the cut. Each day also started with a range of strength and conditioning exercises, which “give the cheerleaders power and endurance to cheer for a full four-quarter NFL football game,” according to the Patriots website.
Sonntag said the most nerve-wracking part of the experience was waiting for his number to be called. But he said he felt like “everyone in the room wanted you to make the team.”
“Although it is a competition, everyone is so encouraging so it was a nice process,” he said.
Sonntag grew up training at a studio in Vermont prior to pursuing dance at Dean College, where he’s undergone intense training in various disciplines, including his favorite, jazz. But he traces his affinity for performing at sporting events back to his time on the CHS dance team.
“I love dancing and hearing the feedback from audience members, which isn’t something you get normally in a stage setting,” he said. “Cheering you on while you’re dancing is something that people aren’t used to. I like that aspect.”
The recently-announced official squad planned to hold its first team meeting on Tuesday. Sonntag will join 11 other squad rookies, though he will have a confidant in the form of his roommate, who was on the team last year and reclaimed a position this year, too.
While he’s one of the first men to join the team since it became an all-female squad in the early ’90s, he’s no stranger to breaking new ground; he started his own dance team at Dean College, where he’s now a senior, because the school didn’t have one – a team that went on to perform twice at the Patriots’ opening day games in 2016 and 2017. In the latter year, the team went on to win the Super Bowl.
As a lifelong Patriots fan who recalls many Sundays spent with his family in front of the television, Sonntag said he’s honored to represent such a storied organization, though he admitted the news still hasn’t really set in yet.
“It’s definitely crazy to think I’m on the team,” he said.