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Cheerleader of the Week: Samantha

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Samantha enters her fifth year as captain of the Texans Cheerleaders

Different leaders have different styles. Some are boisterously vocal and demanding, while others let their actions set an example for others to follow. The Houston Texans seem to attract the latter of the two.

Case in point? On the football field, look at Andre Johnson or DeMeco Ryans. Outstanding players who let their results do the talking.

On the sidelines, it's your Texans Cheerleader of the Week, Samantha. The sixth-year veteran is entering her fifth year as captain and has a long list of accolades to go along with that title. Samantha has won the Cheerleader MVP two years in a row, which is voted on by her teammates. She was selected to cheer in the 2004 Pro Bowl, chosen to deliver the famous "EA Sports, it's in the game!" tag-line for the Madden 2005 video game, and was one of three Texans Cheerleaders to appear with Mario Williams in the ESPN: The Magazine photo shoot last season.

But Samantha depends on her performance to guide her teammates.

"I try and lead mostly by example," she says. "I feel like if I show the team my strong work ethic that they will work hard too. We are most productive and efficient when we're prepared, so I try and always show up to practice prepared and with a game plan."

Cheerleader Services Manager Alto Gary has full confidence in her captain.

"She's one of my originals," Gary said. "She's been here since I've been here. I tell her we'll just grow old together every year she says she's coming back. She's always an asset, and the girls look up to her. She's like my right hand man."

Samantha has her work cut out for her this season with a large influx of rookies on the squad. But the veteran captain should have little trouble getting everybody on the same page.

"She's one person that we both looked up to our rookie year, being that she was on the team the longest," Texans Cheerleader twins Larisa and Marisa said. "And we both look up to her in her dancing ability as well as her leadership of the team. She's just a great person to be around."

Samantha is so adored by her teammates that they could probably write a book about their appreciation of her.

"I can't say enough about Samantha," 3rd-year veteran Crystal said. "Samantha is an awesome role model. She's been on the team the longest, so she has so much experience to bring toward the team. From everything from dancing to attitude, she's the person to look up to."

{QUOTE} Given the stress and expectations involved with being a Texans Cheerleader, Samantha has a simple philosophy in leading the girls to success: Stay relaxed and have fun.

"If you start over-analyzing everything, you'll just freak yourself out," Samantha said. "Like if you start thinking about all 70,000 people that are watching you, or you start thinking about tripping or messing up on a dance, it's just going to freak you out.

"If you take it too seriously, you'll be miserable. You won't have the experience that you should have. There are times when you get a little bit overwhelmed, but you just have to step back and say this is an awesome and amazing opportunity, and have fun with it."

But as the captain, Samantha must focus on far more than just her own performance.

"I do enjoy the game, I get to watch the plays, but I'm constantly thinking, 'If they play this music, what dance are we going to do?,' or checking the time clock to see 'OK, is it almost the two-minute warning? Do I need to let the girls know to do a certain thing?'

"I just always have to be aware of our surroundings and what's going on during the game. So there's a lot of thinking involved."

Off the field, Samantha's daily life is like many of the Texans Cheerleaders – busy. A graduate of the University of Houston with a degree in finance, Samantha works full-time at an investment company. On the three to four days a week that the squad practices, Samantha is at her office, at the gym and then at practice from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

It's something that often goes unnoticed by fans who only see the girls at the games or during appearances.

"It's kind of funny because a lot of people don't realize that we do have other jobs or we are full-time students," Samantha said. "One of the biggest challenges is probably balancing time. We certainly do this for the love of dance."

And it doesn't stop on weekends, when Samantha is usually out making one of dozens of appearances with the Texans Cheerleaders. For her, though, the opportunity to interact with fans is one of the best parts of the job.

"It's so much fun to be out there in the community and to be sort of like a role model to little girls," she said. "They really get excited when they see us. Hopefully, if they have a dream of ever becoming a cheerleader or pursuing something that they didn't think they could do, hopefully we show them that they can do it."

And while any job can get old after several years, Gary says that Samantha continues to get better every year and hasn't lost a bit of her enthusiasm.

"There are times I'm like, 'If you need a break Samantha, let me know, you can sit this game out, go up in the suites or whatever,'" Gary said. "But she dances every game. She loves it."

"It's so much fun," Samantha said. "It's a blast to be out there with the fans – it really, really is. It's hard work, but a lot of fun.

"I've been doing this for a very, very long time, but these seven years have been like the time of my life."

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