A few days ago, Jessica Maxwell was in San Leandro getting fitted with a sample silver-and-black Raiderette uniform.
The 2009 graduate of East Union High was at the practice facility for the orientation of new members for one of the highest profile cheer squads in the National Football League.
“I’m still in shock (of becoming a Raiderette),” said Maxwell on Wednesday at the Dance and Cheer Stars Studio. “But after getting fitted, I realized that the experience is real.”
Fortunately, she will be joined on this year’s 36-member squad supporting the Oakland Raiders by fellow Manteca product Jonni Rogers, who is back for her third year as a Raiderette.
“I still had to try out just to keep my spot,” said Rogers, who was a co-captain last year and, prior to that, earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
She’s a 2008 graduate of Sierra High.
Rogers and Maxwell can be thankful to former Raiderette Harmony Flores, who is the owner and operator of the Dance and Cheer Stars.
She served as mentor to her two long-time dance and cheer pupils.
“Jessica is my sixth student to make a professional cheer squad,” Flores said.
She was a Raiderette from 2004 to 2006, and was able to use her experience to instruct Rogers and Maxwell on how to dress, walk, dance, and speak properly during tryouts.
Rogers and Maxwell are also instructors at Dance and Cheer Stars.
Rogers teaches Jazz and lyrical dancing while Maxwell handles the creative movement for children age 2 to 5 along with competitive cheer team (signups are still available for those ages 3 to 18; call Dance and Cheer Stars at 209-456-7373 for more information).
In addition, they’re employed at the Manteca In-Shape Health Club and currently attend Delta College.
Rogers and Maxwell will soon add Raiderette practice to the mix. They’re planning to commute together to San Leandro during these three-days-a-week sessions not to mention the home games in Oakland.
The Raiderettes, for safety reasons, are prohibited from taking public transportation such as BART to the Oakland Coliseum, according to Flores. Instead, members of the silver-and-black cheer squad, on most Sundays, must make their way through the morning crowds – including the drove of tailgaters – in time for the pre-game practices.
Those failing to arrive to the stadium on time must sit out the game, said Flores.
Maxwell was a Lancers cheerleader during all four years at East Union.
At the beginning, she was nervous about trying out for the Raiderettes. “Harmony and Jonni helped calm me down,” Maxwell said.
Added Flores, “I had all the confidence in the world that Jessica was ready,” she said.
As a rookie, Maxwell will go through a 90-day probationary period. And if all goes accordingly, she’ll be honored with a necklace and rose during a ceremony for Raiderettes.
Meanwhile, Flores and Rogers proudly displayed their symbolic Raiderette piece worn proudly around their necks.
“We’re part of a sisterhood,” Flores said. “Once you’re a Raiderette, you’re a Raiderette forever.”
Maxwell has yet to experience the vibe of an actual NFL game and performing in front of perhaps the most rabid fans in U.S. professional sports.
“Raider fans are active and supportive (of the Raiderettes),” said Flores, who plans to attend all the home games. “There’s really no time to be nervous.”
“The day of the game is always exciting, from the playing of the National Anthem to performing in front of the fans,” she said.
Her favorite spot in the Coliseum is the Black Hole.
“I consider them our best fans,” she said. “They’re also very protective of us.”
The families of Rogers and Flores are Raider fans.
What about Maxwell’s family?
“My dad just became a Raiderette fan,” Jessica Maxwell said.