Brandon Buckner’s unexpected road to cheerleading

Brandon Buckner, or Bucky as he is known by his coaches and teammates on the cheer team, has shown plenty of Cougar pride this last year.

The junior from New York City has always had many great talents, particularly in sports and music. Buckner eventually realized he was very skilled at cheerleading.

Brandon Buckner runs the Y flag during a football game. Buckner has enjoyed an unusual route to becoming a BYU cheerleader. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Buckner)

In March 2021, Buckner completed his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and returned to BYU seeking new experiences. While walking through the Smith Fieldhouse on campus, he noticed some students who were in matching uniforms and became curious to see who these people were.

As he poked his head into the room, he saw something that blew him away: stunting and flips. “That’s insane,” Buckner whispered to himself as he watched with amazement.

Unbeknownst to Buckner, the head coach of the cheer team, Jocelyn Allen, walked by him as he had said those words. It was then that everything changed.

“I saw him stick his head in, and we were right in the middle of looking for new recruits for cheerleading,” Allen said. “Usually what I do is look for people who are athletic, who are strong, who are obviously big in stature.”

Allen mentioned they were looking for athletes who had played in other sports, such as rugby, football or lacrosse. Buckner was a perfect match for those requirements based on his diverse athletic background.

After some persistent encouragement from Allen, Buckner decided to give cheerleading a shot. She helped set him up with the captains of the stunt team, and the experience began.

Buckner visited a trampoline park in Utah County and practiced tossing a cheerleader in the air. In the span of about two hours, Buckner had become more familiar with the basic motions of cheerleading. Buckner said after the time he spent practicing he was able to lift a cheerleader up to his head, throw her up in the air and catch her while also extending her above his shoulders.

After this, Buckner found he was warming up to the idea of becoming a cheerleader. However, he wasn’t anticipating trying out for the team. One day when he was stunting, one of the fellow stunt team members encouraged him to try out, taking his phone and signing him up for tryouts.

Buckner went to tryouts and was selected to the team. Incredibly, in the span of a month, Buckner went from being an average Joe to being a collegiate cheerleader.

Because this was a new experience and he lacked a background in stunting, Buckner would have his shoulders wrapped up in ice to help heal and strengthen the motion in his arms. He would return home with the ice on his shoulders, and his roommates became very curious about what was going on.

As he explained to them that his shoulders were iced up because he had joined the cheer team, Buckner realized his roommates seemed even more excited than he was about joining the team.

Brandon Buckner’s friends make up a fan club with signs to cheer him on. Buckner’s team members, roommates, friends and family have all been big supporters of his journey to becoming a cheerleader. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Buckner)

When Buckner told his family about joining the team, he learned that night from his father that his grandfather was a yell leader at BYU in the 1940s. It was then that Buckner realized he was about to carry on a family legacy.

Brandon Buckner celebrates with his family at the Marriott Center. Learning that his grandpa was a yell leader at BYU in the 1940s helped Buckner know he had a legacy to carry on as a cheerleader. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Buckner)

As summer began to wind down into fall, practices for cheer began. The days were long, as Buckner would practice with the team from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. for two weeks straight. Buckner loved every minute of it because it allowed him to practice and have the feeling of belonging to the team.

Jewels Short, who has been a member of BYU’s cheer team for four years, was Buckner’s stunt partner for this season.

“I have loved being able to work with Brandon, he is so kind and he really is there to work hard,” Short said.

As the more experienced cheerleader, Short said she hopes she has been a good mentor for Brandon and helped point him in the right direction.

Both Allen and Short agree some of Buckner’s greatest qualities are his positive attitude and his ability to connect with others so easily, which they feel have helped unify the team.

Buckner described this past season as “one of the sickest experiences” of his life. He loved being on the field or court to help energize Cougar nation. Because of the time and place he was in on that day in March 2021, Buckner was blessed with something he will remember for the rest of his life.

Brandon Buckner sings the national anthem at a women’s basketball game. Buckner described this past season as “one of the sickest experiences” of his life. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Buckner)
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