The Texans announced the 50 finalists – 53 counting three sets of twins – for the 2011 Houston Texans Cheerleader squad on Friday.
"I'm really excited about the 53," Texans Cheerleader services manager Alto Gary said. "We have a lot of new people, fresh faces. I like to give fresh faces to the fans and not get stagnant in what the program is all about. But I'm really excited about it. I think a squad of rookies is not a bad thing because they're excited and they want to do things and they listen to you, and they appreciate what you have."
The cheerleaders are headed in a decidedly new direction. Only 10 veterans from last year's squad are among the 53 finalists.
"We did a different twist this year," Gary said. "The Texans organization wanted to go in a different direction. Sometimes in the history of pro cheerleaders, there comes a time where you have to clean house. We're a new squad, but it's been 10 years. It was our year to kind of clean house to go in a different direction we kind of wanted to go more into. The emphasis was definitely more on looks this year."
The finalists were picked from a group of 624 ladies who showed up for the first round of tryouts on Saturday, April 9, at the Methodist Training Center. That group was cut down to 273 before the second round and to 100 before the third round, both of which were on Sunday, before the final 53 were chosen.
"This was the biggest turnout we had in several years," Gary said. "We're very excited. We had a lot of quality girls. A lot of these girls could've just been on any NFL team. And so it was hard, but easy, if that makes sense."
The final squad will be announced on May 3. The finalists will have five practices between now and then, and they'll perform in front of fans at the Houston Texans Draft Party presented by Miller Lite on Thursday, April 28, at Reliant Stadium. Fans at the draft party can vote to help determine the final squad.
"Draft day is a small little tidbit of what it is actually like to be a Texans Cheerleader," Gary said. "You have the performance aspect and then they also do TV interviews that day, which they'll be scored on, and appearances around the stadium. So it's like a crash course in Houston Texans Cheerleaders."