From Oriskany to NFL sideline


Since she was 7-years-old, Oriskany native Taylor Crumb had been working to make her dream of becoming a dancer come true.

And while she may not be doing it in ballet slippers, Crumb is still fulfilling her wishes and goals out on the sidelines at M&T Bank Stadium.

After completing 10th grade, Taylor, along with parents Maria and Jay Crumb, moved from Oriskany down to Maryland for a new job opportunity. It was there she graduated from high school and before her prom, and while still preparing for graduation, Taylor received the opportunity of a lifetime to try-out to become a member of the Baltimore Ravens’ cheerleading squad.

Since age 2, Taylor had been taking dancing lessons and would eventually begin working toward making dance her career, but cheerleading was also an enjoyed extracurricular activity that started when she attended high school.

“During my senior year of high school, I realized I wanted to keep cheering since I decided I wanted to hold off on going to college,” Crumb said. “My friends on my cheer team told me I should try out for the Ravens since they are the only NFL team that stunts. I talked to my two coaches, Lindsay Burns and Bobbi Thompson, and they got me connected with one of the guys on the Ravens Cheer Team who gave me private lessons before tryouts started. I had about five hours worth of lessons total before I went and auditioned.”

By stunts, Taylor’s mom, Maria Crumb, once again of Oriskany, explained that the Ravens was one of the first NFL teams to have a cheerleading squad that performed high tosses and landings with male “bases” employed to catch them.

“The audition process is about three weeks — we have our physical portion, an interview, and how we interact with the team,” Taylor further explained.  “We practice two days a week for three hours, where we work on technique, learn new routines and perfect the elements we perform on the sidelines.”

Ravens cheerleaders perform for home games, and do not travel with the team. But the work doesn’t end once all the touchdowns and field goals are scored.

“In our spare time we sign up for appearances where we go and interact with fans,” said Taylor. “Our appearances are all over the state of Maryland.”

She said, “Game days are always a cheerleader’s favorite day. We get there five hours before kickoff to practice before the game, prepare ourselves and head out for a pregame appearance.”

Prior to becoming a Ravens cheerleader, mom Maria said Taylor’s whole life was dance. At age 2 she began taking lessons at Dance 10 Studio in Barneveld, where she danced until age 16 when the family moved to Maryland.

She was disciplined in tap, jazz, lyrical ballet and contemporary. From the time she was 5 until age 18, Maria said her daughter competed in dance competitions statewide and in national-level competitions hosted in various states. The pair got the opportunity to travel quite a bit.

“She is a phenomenal dancer,” Maria said of Taylor. “She was ranked 15th in the country in one of her (national) competitions, and she finished first place in regionals several times throughout the years. When we were doing dance, it was five days a week, about three or four hours a day. And then in ninth grade at Oriskany, she joined the cheerleading team, and that was five days a week with Coach Jenks, and she loved it. Then we moved to Maryland, she took a year off from cheerleading, but then took it up again her senior year at Damascus High School” in Damascus, Md.

It was her high school coaches, Burns and Thompson, who “shaped” Taylor in becoming a professional cheerleader, Maria said. She attended a cheer clinic at Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md. her senior year of high school, where she learned what it would be like to live the life of a professional cheerleader, and she then decided to go ahead with the audition process, her mother explained.

“She had so much fun, she decided she wanted to do it,” Maria said. “We looked up what was needed for auditions, like a headshot and full body shot, so we found a reputable photographer. She also had to have a special outfit, full hair and makeup, she had to have her nails done, eyelashes done — you had to look like you were out on the field.”

There were two days of knock-out rounds — the first day was all newcomers, while the second day was the veterans who had cheered with the team before. No one is guaranteed their spot from the season before, and must re-audition. Besides the cheering and dance coaches, the head coach of the team, John Harbaugh, also attends auditions.

“It was quite intimidating,” Maria said. “When they asked for her resume, and it was all dance, they asked why she was auditioning with a dance background.”

Nevertheless, Taylor made the final cut and her dance experience actually helps her perform some of the demanding stunts expected of her today.

“Taylor now gets the best of both worlds (dance and cheer), because she stunts with the team,” her mother said. “She gets thrown 30 feet into the air. Guys stunt, and every girl on the stunt team is a flyer. There’s guys underneath, or bases, and they (the flyers) always get two partners, so there’s a total two vets to one rookie” in each group.

Taylor made the Ravens team when she was 18, and this is her second season.

“She was still 2 1/2 months from graduating at the time, and hadn’t had her prom yet,” Maria recalled. “She was going through (Ravens) practices and getting ready for graduation.”

Maria said Taylor practices cheering for 3-4 hours every Tuesday and Thursday where they work on their weekly routines. Each week there’s a different performance in the end zone.

“They (cheerleaders) move every quarter and there’s four quadrants in the stadium they move to, so wherever you are in the stadium, you will get to see them in their spot,” Maria explained. “At the end of each quarter, they do a performance in the end zone, which are choreographed by some of the seasoned veterans, and then also the coaches. She loves it.”

Cheerleaders are expected to report to the stadium between 5 1/2 to 6 hours before game time so they have time to practice and get their hair and make-up done. Taylor and the other members of the squad will also meet at RavensWalk prior to the game, where different bands and acts perform and the Baltimore Zoo will bring their Ravens. It’s a walkway between M&T Bank Stadium and the Orioles’ Camden Yards, Maria explained.

And during the week, cheerleaders may volunteer to appear at special events.

“She did an event at a veterans’ shelter for women and that really touched her,” Maria said of her daughter. “She never thought about women veterans being homeless, it never dawned on her. She went home and then brought a bunch of stuff back to the shelter. She also has a great infinity for children with special needs, and she loves going to events like that.”

When not cheering, Taylor is working two jobs in retail. Despite her busy schedule, mom and dad Jay make it a point to travel and come watch her cheer at Ravens games. Although Maria was a Cowboys fan and Jay a Steelers fan, they’ve jumped ship to come support their daughter’s Baltimore endeavors, along with 70,000 other fans.

“She’s always working and excited about everything coming up, and she worked hard for it,” the mother said. “Taylor wants to eventually come home to Oriskany and would like to coach and open her own all-star gym or dance studio. She plans on going to college when she’s done” with cheering, “but right now she’s living her best life and all the opportunities it affords her. She just turned 20, and she’s been the youngest girl on the Ravens for two years in a row.”


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment