Kyle Tanguay didn’t know what reaction to expect when he first took the field with the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders at an open practice for the Eagles earlier this summer.

Frankly, no one with the team knew what to expect. The Eagles hadn’t had a male cheerleader since the 1980s, and even those guys were more yell leaders and stuntmen. Tanguay would be dancing along with the female cheerleaders, pom-poms and all, in front of a fanbase that has at times gotten a bad rap for some ill-timed booing.

Yet very quickly the butterflies in Tanguay’s stomach were put to rest. As he welcomed fans and cheered on the Eagles, the reception from everyone at the practice seemed welcoming and accepting.

He wasn’t “the dude with the cheerleaders,” he was just a “cheerleader.” He was there to celebrate their favorite team, and that’s been enough for the fans so far leading up to the season.

“One thing the Eagles fans are doing a good job of is they’re not making it about me being a man or being gay,” Tanguay told Outsports. “They’re just excited about me being part of the team.”

An NFL opportunity opens up

A year ago, cheering in an NFL stadium wasn’t on Tanguay’s radar screen. He had been dancing since he was a kid growing up in New Hampshire, consumed by the demands of his school studies and his dancing. When he moved to Philadelphia to attend The University of the Arts, the dancing took over what felt like his entire life.

Tanguay takes his dancing to the top of a mountain in his home state of New Hampshire.

“I was just completely swamped with my studio,” he said. “One time I had a solo rehearsal during the Super Bowl.”

It was the 2018 NFL season that Tanguay first got the notion of being an NFL cheerleader. A good friend of his had made the team and she was routinely regaling him with stories of fun and camaraderie. That excited him.

“I saw she had a great experience, and I thought it was something I really wanted to try. A few months later I noticed the Rams and the Saints had men on the team and I thought, wow this is actually a possibility.”

With the example of those three male cheerleaders with the Rams and Saints as his beacon, Tanguay headed to Eagles cheerleader tryouts last March. He said he was greeted immediately by welcoming faces from the team. While the Eagles hadn’t had a male cheerleader in decades, they explained to him that their tryouts had always been open to people of any gender. Tanguay had simply been the first man to show up in a long, long time.

He was put through the same rigor as any of the women there aiming for the same spot on the team: Portions of the tryout included modeling, fitness, onstage speaking and dance. When the announcements came in April, he was officially a member of the Eagles cheerleading team.

This April, Kyle Tanguay got the big news: He’s a new member of the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2019 season.

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Tanguay. It’s been an intense period of rehearsals and appearances throughout the community and supporting the team. Game-day duties include tailgate appearances and mini cheer clinics, in addition to all of the action on the field.

Throughout the entire time, Tanguay has said everyone associated with the Eagles and their cheerleading team have been fantastic.

“I’m really fortunate to have an awesome team,” he said. “We have no drama, no stress. We have a really nice dynamic. It was a little daunting to take the field the first time, but I’ve received nothing but extremely positive reactions from the fans, the players, players’ families and the Eagles staff.”

The NFL has at least 9 male cheerleaders this season

Tanguay also feels part of another team: the growing list of male cheerleaders in the NFL. He said he knows of at least nine men cheering in the NFL this season — That number was zero just two years ago. The men are all on a group chat together, constantly supporting one another and — no doubt — dishing when the latest news demands it.

“We’re hoping the group chat gets bigger every year,” Tanguay said.

Being on the cheerleading team also landed him something pretty special: a boyfriend. His new beau had reached out to Tanguay via Instagram shortly after it was announced he’d made the team. They’ve been together since.

“He’s a huge Eagles fan,” Tanguay said.

Tanguay isn’t limiting his dancing strictly to the football field. Recently he was the choreographer and featured solo actor and dancer in the music video for world touring artist Luca Fogale’s Half-Saved.

A man on a team of mostly women

As for the logistics of a man participating on a team that’s been all women for 40 years, the Eagles have set up Tanguay in his own locker room, which connects to a joint meeting room on the other side of which is the women’s locker room. While Tanguay may be the only current occupant of his men’s locker room, he says it’s “hopefully for more men in the locker room in the future.”

He may get his wish. Tanguay has already heard from one man in the Philadelphia area who has expressed an interest in trying out for the Eagles cheerleading team next spring.

In the meantime, he’s perfectly comfortable being the only man shaking his pom-poms and cheering on the Eagles from the field.

“One thing I’ve always been true to is to be myself. Stand up for what I believe in, even if I’m standing alone. People can look at me the wrong way or not like the things I do, but I’m just going to continue to stay true to myself.”

An up-and-coming cheerleader with one of his inspirations, Eagles cheerleader Kyle Tanguay.

You can follow Kyle Tanguay on Twitter @ktangkyle, or on Instagram @kyletanguay.

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