LANDOVER, Md. — For GeNienne Samuels, the Washington Redskins’ focus on the fan experience turned into a dream job this season. Samuels, who attended Hermitage High and the University of Richmond, is the team’s new “in-game host” at FedEx Field. She appears on the video board, during commercials and at halftime, and interviews fans or gives them trivia questions to win prizes.
It’s a homecoming for her after spending eight years as a Redskins cheerleader.
“It’s just been an absolutely amazing experience, even though the team isn’t doing that well,” Samuels said. “There’s nothing like the NFL. It’s bigger — the atmosphere, the energy, it’s hard to explain. When you’re down on the field it makes it that much more exciting.”
Samuels served in a similar role with the Washington Wizards and Mystics before getting the Redskins job.
She keeps plenty busy during the week as well. She is a project management consultant, works at a local television station in Prince George’s County and runs a company called Sideline Prep, which prepares aspiring cheerleaders.
“We help them become prepared for prep classes and auditions with a four-month coaching program,” she said. “Nothing like this existed when I tried out. There’s so much that goes into these auditions, and we walk them through that process. We have a 74% success rate of our students landing on pro or semi-pro dance teams, so we’re really proud.”
All that is an impressive achievement for someone who didn’t make the cheerleading squad her junior year at Hermitage. Samuels was a runner back then — she participated in cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track. A friend asked her to try out for the cheerleading team with her during her sophomore year, and she made it that year and during her senior year. (Her first name is pronounced like Janine — the G and N were capitalized for her parents, Gerard and Nancy.)
After college, she attended a Redskins game to see a friend, Shawn Barber, who was playing for the team (Barber also went to Hermitage and UR). “I saw the cheerleaders and I decided I wanted to audition,” she said. “I made it on my first go.”
Now she’s visible during the team’s eight home games and two preseason games, a high-profile post that comes with some nerves.
“I have to admit, the very first hit of the very first preseason game I was beyond nervous,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time my heart felt it was going to jump out of my chest like that.”