When Samaura Steele was 9, she first stepped on the football field at the University of Maryland, her mother’s alma mater.
“I said I need to be on here one day,” Steele recalled.
Sometime soon, hopefully this fall, Steele will return to the field as a member of the school’s cheerleading team.
Steele, who graduated from Trumbull last month, fulfilled one of her childhood dreams when she earned a spot with the Terrapins, who have been national champions six times.
“My senior year I was applying to schools on an academic basis,” Steele said. “I got into my top choices. I was looking at Maryland, Temple, I got into UConn-Storrs. My parents said first it is academics and then I was a little weary because I know these schools have some of the biggest name cheerleaders. I was thinking ‘I’m from Trumbull, Connecticut. How can this work out?’ I just took my shot, I sent in the trial video and then I got the news a week later that I made it to the Maryland cheerleading team.”
Steele will be the second FCIAC athlete in the last decade to cheer for Maryland. Wilton’s Chelsea LeVander, a former state gymnastics champion, also was a member of the Terrapins’ team.
Steele also has a gymnastics background, and was on Trumbull’s team her first two years at the school.
“Gymnastics was such a central part of my life,” Steele said. “I love everything about gymnastics, but cheerleading, that was the sport that I really loved and wanted to dedicate my time to. And when I started thinking about colleges, I envisioned myself on that field cheering.”
Steele laughs now at the reluctance she showed when her mother first signed her up for cheerleading, ironically right before her first trip to Maryland.
“I did not want to go, no,” Steele said. “I was really quiet. Then I found that cheerleading gave me this confidence that I never had before.”
Steele won a number of honors at Trumbull and earned some renown for occasional individual routines during timeouts at basketball games to stir up The Black Hole, the school’s loyal fan base.
“This was a way I could get more of a platform for us as a team,” Steele said. “They realized it was a lot more than yelling this and yelling that. They could really see the skill come out at our games. I think cheerleading adds something to the school that shows positive things,” Steele said. “It is OK to be spirited and have a good time while cheering your school. That’s what it is about.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland held tryouts by video. Steele said it was surreal when she got the call that she has been selected for the team.
“I’m really excited because I can tell I am going to be coached like never before,” Steele said. “I go in my backyard and do crazy flips. I just learn like that. So it’s going to be so nice to get that hands-on experience. It is going to be so nice to be around these girls and learn so much more about cheerleading than what I’ve been taught. I’ve had amazing coaches in the past but this will be such a different experience. But I’m also nervous because it is very different.”
Maryland still does not know whether it will have a football season, and if so whether fans will be allowed in the stands and cheerleaders on the field. The competitive cheer season is held in the winter.
“I’ll almost feel like I’m at an NFL game. That field is beautiful,” Steele said about the anticipation of her Maryland debut at a football game. “I keep envisioning it and whether it’s this year or next fall I’m super excited.”