PSU senior ready to join Patriots' cheerleader squad
LONDONDERRY - Leaving the field following an away game, a teenage Allison Smedley overheard a cluster of teenage boys loudly mocking a special needs student.
Without hesitation, the Londonderry High School varsity cheerleader walked over to the young man she'd never met before: clutching his arm and chatting him up, she glared daggers at the would-be bullies.
'She totally distracted him and walked with him out to the parking lot,' recalled former teacher Steve Juster, who watched the events unfold from the stands. 'It was one of the most genuinely beautiful things I've ever seen.'
As she prepares to complete her studies at Plymouth State University later this month, the college senior known to most of her friends simply as 'Aly,' continues to live life on her own terms.
While other recent graduates ponder their futures, find entry-level jobs or contemplate graduate school, Smedley, 22, will be living her life's dream: cheering with the New England Patriots' cheerleading squad.
This year marked the third time that Aly, the oldest daughter of Linda and Howard Smedley, auditioned for the Patriots' squad. Preliminary workshops began in early January, with the first round of auditions held March 3.
After making her way through final auditions and an intense cheerleader boot camp, Smedley learned she'd made the final cut via email on March 31.
'It was the most amazing feeling in the world,' she recalled. 'I'd worked so hard.'
Following her May 19 college graduation, when she'll earn a degree in communications, Smedley plans on moving back to Londonderry for the time being. 'It's still a long commute to the Gillette Stadium, but it's so worth it,' she said.
The squad rehearses Tuesday and Friday afternoons, with much time during the off-season devoted to promotional appearances at various charity and community events around New England.
'It's technically a part-time job, but really it's a full time commitment,' said Smedley, who will depart for Jamaica on May 29 for a weeklong photo shoot of the team's calendar.
'After that, we'll be gearing up for football season,' she added. Cheerleaders on the Patriots squad must audition each season, with three years being the maximum tenure.
Though she hopes to cheer professionally for several years, Smedley also is looking to the future.
'I'd love to work in broadcasting: hopefully somewhere in the Boston area,' she said. 'Maybe I'll also coach a local team: if I'm really lucky, maybe that team will be in Londonderry.
Smedley, who graduated from Londonderry High School in 2008, cheered on her school's varsity cheering squad for four years. She was a team captain during her final year in Londonderry.
'I'm just so excited for her and proud of her determination,' former coach Michelle Sharp said.
Juster said he got to know Smedley quite well when she volunteered as a high school pep rally aide, where she encouraged her peers to donate their hair to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, which makes and distributes free wigs to cancer patients.
'She came to me in my classroom and told me she really wanted to help me…. that began the tradition of people volunteering to be aides,' Juster recalled. 'We'd read achingly sad stories about why people were donating…I told her the day before the rally that I wasn't sure the event would be up to par with the people on the floor and everything they were sacrificing.'
It was then that Smedley placed her hands on Juster's shoulders. 'You are giving them a place to give,' she told him.
'I know she was chosen for her athletic ability and public persona, but as they get to know her and know her heart, the Patriots will find that they have chosen a real treasure,' Juster added.