From the October 2016 Desktop News | In January 2015, The University of Alabama’s cheerleading team made history when it became the first division 1A team to win first place in both the coed and all-girl categories at the College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship put on by the Universal Cheerleaders Association and the Universal Dance Association.
Orlando-native Jed “Trey” Vaughn was part of UA’s winning coed cheer squad that year, helping to blaze a trail at UA and in his family. Following in his footsteps, Jed’s brothers, Zachary and Elijah Vaughn, became UA cheerleaders as well. This is the first year that all three brothers have been on the same cheer squad.
“I was a three-sport athlete,” said Zachary, a 23-year-old junior majoring in criminal justice. “I played football, I wrestled, and I was on the weightlifting team. My older brother had a great opportunity to come to Alabama and start cheerleading, and I felt stuck where I was. So, I moved here to do what he was doing, and I haven’t looked back.”
Elijah, a 20-year-old sophomore who also majors in criminal justice, played football in high school. He wanted to continue playing in college, but was told he was too small.
“When the coach told me I was a little too small to play football, and I saw my brothers cheerleading, I decided I wanted to be a cheerleader as well,” he said. “I packed my bags from football, went to the cheerleading gym, and started going at it.”
Jed’s reasons for getting into the sport are different from his brothers. Though like them, he was introduced to cheerleading by a family member.
“I had got into trouble at home, and my mom made me take my sister to cheerleading practice where I saw a bunch of guys tumbling,” Jed said. “I told my mom that I wanted to learn how to do backflips, and she said, ‘OK, I’ll sign you up for it.’”
Before coming to UA, the Vaughns went to Shelton State Community College. It’s there that Jed further developed the cheerleading skills he learned in high school, and where Zachary and Elijah learned to cheer.
“We had our eye on them at Shelton State before they came to us,” said Jennifer Thrasher, UA’s spirit coordinator over both cheerleading teams. “All three cheered for Coach Christa Grizzle Sanford at Shelton. She does a great job of developing athletes and preparing them for the next level.
“They’re very genuine guys with incredible work ethic. If I need anyone to do a pep rally or public appearance, they’re always the first to raise their hands.”
Being a male cheerleader isn’t easy. In addition to being strong enough to toss cheerleaders into the air repeatedly, they have to tumble, which had its challenges.
“The hardest thing about cheerleading is learning tumbling in a hurry,” Zachary said. “There is a lot of technique to it. I crashed and burned a lot. Turf hurts.”
Cheerleading at UA has done a lot for the Vaughn brothers, but, most importantly to them, it’s grown their family.
“The cheerleading team has become like my second family,” Jed said. “I chose the right team and the right school. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Roll Tide!”