From Cheerleader to Tailgater

Gail Petersen cheers for his favorite team on game day just like everyone else, the only difference between Petersen and everyone else is that it used to be his job.

Petersen, 42, was a cheerleader for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhuskers from 1991-1995, a heady period when the school won two of its five national titles. It has been more than 20 years since Petersen became a cheerleader and more than 10 since the male cheerleading program was “ground-bound” and eventually eliminated due to liability issues.

So these days, instead of tossing fellow cheerleaders in the air, Petersen tosses cold beverages to his friends and family at his tailgate at lot seven just outside Memorial Stadium.

“Tailgating is a way to connect with friends and family that you can only see during the football season,” he said, “It is a great way of bringing people together.”

Memories of his cheerleading days still hit Petersen every time he attends Husker events; he even remembers some of the old cheers. listen

“Back then we were actually called The Yell Squad,” Petersen said. “My buddies on the squad would get rattled when people called them cheerleaders and were quick to correct.”

Petersen said he was proud of his time on the squad.

“I would totally wear my cheer outfit to the tailgates and games,” he said. “Unfortunately the darn thing hasn’t fit me in over fifteen years.”


Gail Petersen always insists on tailgating with a good cigar

Cheers that used to dominate Petersen’s Husker game day experience have been replaced by gelatin shots, cold beers, hamburgers and marinated bratwurst, which he boasts is a secret recipe.

“The only thing you need for a successful tailgate is bacon,” Peterson said. “Everything else is optional.”

Petersen believes that simplicity and atmosphere are what make a tailgate great.  He also sees some similarities between cheerleading and tailgating.

“Cheerleading is all about guiding the crowd,” Petersen said. “If the energy is there you can’t go wrong; same thing goes for tailgates.”



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