Purdue Agronomy Student Planted Roots on Purdue Spirit Squad

By Sayde Uerkwitz

On a typical Purdue game day you might see fans tailgating before the game and preparing to cheer on the Boilermakers as they grab another victory. The game day preparation is slightly different for one dedicated fan. Casey Colbert is at the game three hours before kickoff. With adrenaline pumping through his veins, he is ready to get the crowd pumped and energized for another Boilermaker win. 

As a captain of the Purdue Coed Spirit Squad, it is Colbert’s responsibility to make sure his fellow cheerleaders are ready to perform.

“Being on the Purdue Spirit Squad is nonstop fun,” Colbert said. “I don’t know if it is the competition or the excitement of preparing for a game, but I love performing and doing challenging stunts on the field.”

Steve Solberg, spirit squad coordinator and head cheer/mascot coach, said Casey is the type of person who leads by example.
“He is always on time and is always putting in extra time to make himself better for his team,” Solberg said.  “I see Casey stunting all the time and his technique has shown as he’s improved a lot in the last two years. It’s obvious that his teammates saw the same thing as they voted him as one of their captains for the 2013-2014 season.”

Colbert is a junior from Tipton, Ind. majoring in Agronomic Business and Marketing.  His choice of major follows the same path his parents made when they were students at Purdue.

“At a young age I knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture. It has been a huge part of my life. Both of my parents, Dave and Tina Colbert, were Purdue College of Agriculture graduates ,” Colbert said. “My dad wanted to be an electrical engineer but when the program was not a perfect fit for him, he listened to my mom’s advice and transferred. My sister, Kelly, was also a College of Agriculture graduate and now works for AgReliant.  My dad is a seed salesman and the agronomic side of his job has always interested me.”

Dr. Lee Schweitzer, Colbert’s academic advisor, said Colbert is an active, good student who is gaining momentum.
“I enjoy working with students like Casey,” Schweitzer said. “Casey has shown improvement from the beginning of his career at Purdue. He is the type of person you can expect to think ahead and take charge.”

Schweitzer can also remember Colbert’s parents while they were students.

“It is always a great joy to see two generations excel in the College of Agriculture,” Schweitzer said. “When I work with students I take the approach to know their background and their families if I can. In Casey’s situation the positive values I saw in his parents have carried through to him and his sister Kelly who was also a leader on campus and is now a successful professional with AgReliant”.

Colbert was heavily involved in leadership roles growing up.

“Two of my favorite leadership roles have been in 4-H​,” Colbert said. “I was the junior director at 4-H Camp, where I would oversee the counselors and direct information to the adult leaders. I also enjoyed being a Junior Leader Conference counselor. During my time as a 4-Her I was the only person in my county who went to the conference. I try to go back every year and stay involved. My dad and I DJ the dance at the end of the conference and it is amazing to see so many dedicated 4-Hers having fun and making friends.”

Colbert said when he was in high school he had the opportunity to join the cheer squad. After going to a Purdue game and watching the cheerleaders, he knew cheer was a sport he wanted to continue.

“Tryouts for the Purdue squad were an eye-opening experience,” Colbert said. “I did not realize how many advanced stunts there were. In high school three guys would lift one girl; at Purdue we hold them up by one hand. I think stunts like that are really cool. My partner and I struggled to make it through cheer camp, but we made it. At the end of my freshman year I was amazed at how much I advanced.”

Solberg added that Colbert has become a more vocal leader, which is what his team needed from him.

“One of Casey’s strongest qualities is his consistency, he’s always on time and rarely has an off day,” Solberg said.  “I know exactly what I’m going to get out of him at every practice and game. This year being a captain I can see his team looking to him for guidance.”
Dedication is a word that is not taken lightly as a Purdue cheerleader.  Being involved in an organization that dates back to the 1890s, members have a reputation to uphold.

Colbert said each week the squad practices three times with an additional two morning workout sessions. “We cheer at all of the home and away volleyball, football, and men’s and women’s basketball games. We also cheer at the NCAA and Big Ten games.  Normally, before each game we attend an event and are present at most of the athletic banquets. We really don’t have an off-season.”
Solberg can remember a time when Colbert’s dedication pulled through for his team.

“We were at summer cheer camp last year in Milwaukee,  and Casey was doing a stunt. He walks over to me and says, ‘Hey coach, I think I hurt my finger.’” Solberg said.  “I look at it and it’s all bent wrong and swollen.  I told him, ‘Yes, I think you did too, let’s get a trainer.’ A trainer looked at it and didn’t think it was broken, so Casey just taped it up and continued on with camp. Turned out it was broken and he needed to get steel plates inserted.”

Being on the cheer squad does not come without challenges. Colbert said the hardest part is being quiet during the game.

“We are all sports fans,” Colbert said. “When we are standing on the sidelines, it is hard to keep your energy contained when something exciting is happening. The whole crowd can see you and keeping your actions contained is important.  On the flip side, entertaining the crowd can be just as much of a challenge. If we don’t hit our stunts just right or our performance does not look good, the crowd won’t be entertained. Performing in front of so many people can make that task a challenge.”

Colbert does not know where his life will lead after graduation, but he thinks the future is bright.

“I feel like I have a little bit of time before I need to make a final career decision,” Colbert said. I am excited about having another year to intern and gain a new perspective of what it means to be a professional in the agriculture field.”

Solberg and Schweitzer both said Colbert has a bright future ahead of him.

Solberg added that Colbert has grown tremendously as a person the last two years as part of the Purdue Cheerleading Program. “Being voted as a captain as a junior doesn’t happen very often, this is a testament to how respected Casey is by his peers. I can’t wait to see what he’s able to in the future.”

Schweitzer said Colbert will have endless opportunities in the future. “When I look at his pattern of great leadership roles, it is not hard to predict that he will go far personally and professionally.”

Colbert said being in a group like the spirit squad is like being in a family. “It may be a slightly dysfunctional family but for me it was a great way to become acclimated and make friends. Being with a group like this is my favorite part about cheer, other than the cool stunts I get to do.”​