By Cary Shuman
Reia Briggs-Connor was a “Patriette” before she became a New England Patriots cheerleader.
“We were called the Patriettes in my first year and then it became the New England Patriots cheerleaders,” said Briggs-Connor.
Briggs-Connor will be back in Foxboro for the first-ever New England Patriots alumni cheerleader performance on Aug. 31 during halftime of the Giants-Pats game at Gillette Stadium. The cheerleaders will practice the choreography at a rehearsal before hitting the field in front of 68,000 fans.
After serving as a captain of Chelsea Pop Warner squads and the 1991 Chelsea High School cheerleading team, the then-19-year-old Briggs-Connor tried out for the New England Patriots squad and earned a spot. Briggs-Connor was already an accomplished dancer from her years of training at Genevieve’s Dance Studio in Chelsea. She also excelled in athletics as a member of the CHS track team.
She enjoyed her three seasons as a Pats’ cheerleader. Briggs-Connor had a trading card in her name, made personal appearances, signed autographs, was pictured on the team’s promotional calendar, and met many celebrities.
“I just missed out on the Patriots’ Super Bowl in 1996,” said Briggs-Connor. “The quarterback was Drew Bledsoe and then it became Tom Brady and they’ve been great ever since. But my cheerleading career was a fun time. It’s one of the best times of my life. It molded me in to what I do today. I learned a lot of the professional side of dance and created a sisterhood with all of the cheerleaders that continues to this day.”
Briggs-Connor will receive a specially designed New England Patriots’ alumni cheerleading uniform. Several students from her well-known Phunk Phenomenon Dance Complex will be on hand to see her on-field performance.
“This will be my first time dancing in the new stadium,” said Briggs-Connor. “It’s exciting. I get to dance on turf and not dirt.”
The Briggs-Connor family, husband Rick Connor and children, Jared and Aaron, will be cheering for Reia at Gillette.
“I’m very happy that my sons and my husband are going to see me perform,” said Reia, who is an official member of the National Football League Alumni Cheerleaders Assocation. “It’s going to be a proud moment for them to see their mother next to their favorite players on the field. I’m also looking forward to seeing my former teammates.”