While many football players anxiously await to be drafted to the NFL in the coming weeks, one Tech alumna is already making waves on the Falcons sideline. Lauren Piper, IE ‘21, capped off her first season as a Falcons cheerleader earlier this year after making the 2021-22 team.
During her time at Tech, Piper was a member of the Goldrush dance team for four years and served as a senior captain during her senior year. Piper, fueled by her passion for dance, was prompted to try out for Goldrush in order to keep her activity levels up throughout college. “I wanted a way to continue to stay active and continue to dance after high school which is something that usually stops for most people, and being on a college dance team seemed like the perfect way to combine the two,” Piper said.
Prior to becoming a AFC cheerleader, Piper got to experience a professional sports stage during her first year on Goldrush. “One of my favorite memories on Goldrush is freshman year when I was selected as the rookie representative from the team to travel to the ACC Men’s Basketball tournament in New York. I got to dance in Barclays Center where the Brooklyn Nets play,” said Piper.
Piper’s time on the sidelines of Bobby Dodd helped prepare her to make it to the field of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “My Goldrush experience helped me so much for my Falcons audition,” said Piper. “I had never even held pom poms before I came to college, so learning about pom motions and the sideline style dance was extremely helpful. I had also never danced on turf before or with my hair down which is definitely something to get used to.”
The former Goldrush dancer started preparing for her audition during her final semesters at Tech. The months-long audition process consists of prep classes, first-round and semifinal round video submissions and a two day final round bootcamp where the prospective cheerleaders polish their technique and learn a field routine. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the 2021 auditions process, which required the cheerleaders to learn an additional ten sideline routines prior to the final round.
Piper put in hours of work ahead of her audition, often spending eight hours a week dancing and spending additional time working on building her endurance. “Game days are 11 hours long, and we dance for 5 of them, so you have to be in really good shape in order to keep up and not look exhausted on the field,” said Piper.
The long hours spent practicing and perfecting her routine had paid off. After advancing all the way to the final round of auditions, Piper was finally announced as a member of the 2021 Atlanta Falcons Cheerleading team. “The coaches announced the team the second day of finals, and we had just performed the dance in pairs and were waiting in the endzone while the judges deliberated,” said Piper.
“After 2 hours they called everyone to the center of the field, read off the names of everyone that made the team, and we did the finals routine all together. That moment was so special to me because it was the first time we danced together as a team, and you could feel everyone’s energy and excitement for the season to come.”
Piper has had a memorable first year as a Falcons cheerleader. At the end of season banquet for the team, Piper received the “Rookie of the Year” award, an honor voted on by her fellow teammates.
Piper’s favorite moment from the season was her first game day in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “Running out onto the field for the first time for player intros with the roaring crowd, blinding lights, and cameras showing my face on the 360 halo board was surreal,” said Piper.
During the day, Piper works full-time right outside of Tech’s campus as a Business Analyst for NCR. On game days, Piper runs around Mercedes-Benz stadium, arriving five hours ahead of kick-off to rehearse routines and formations for the game ahead. The cheerleading team does not get to practice at Mercedes-Benz, so these precious hours before the game are often the first time the cheerleaders get to practice their choreography on the field.
Before kick-off, Piper spends time making appearances around the stadium with her teammates and interacting with fans.
After making final hair and makeup touch ups, the team heads back down to the field for their pregame performance and lines the field to create a tunnel for the Falcons players to run through. After the game ends, Pipers retreats back to the locker room for a team meeting before heading home to rest and recover for work at the NCR office the next morning.
The world of dance plays an important part in Piper’s life and her job as a Falcons cheerleader allowed her to continue her passion after graduating from Tech and leaving her Goldrush team.
“Dance has impacted my life immensely. It has given me so much confidence and has always been an outlet for when other things in life get me down,” said Piper. “If I’ve had a hard day or am in a bad mood, walking into practice and getting to dance with these amazing men and women totally turns my day around. I always leave fulfilled and grateful that I have the opportunity to do what I love with my friends who support and believe in me.”
For those dreaming of one day making it to the NFL sidelines, Piper encourages others to seize opportunities without fear of failing. “My best advice would be to go for it, live in the moment, and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. So many times I won’t try things because I’m afraid of failing or not being good at it, but you really never know until you try. Going for this has been the most I have ever put myself out there, and I have been nothing but rewarded for it.”