It doesn’t matter if he’s clearing a path benefiting the running back or elevating a member of the cheer squad skyward. For Devin Beaulieu, both actions represent the thrill of the unfathomable.
Drilling down to get to know a teenager who spends his fall as an offensive guard before shifting to competitive cheerleading during the winter months, the West Warwick High senior doesn’t beat around the bush when professing which sport represents the toughest mountain to climb. His assessment may surprise you. Keep in mind that Beaulieu is a veteran of both sports.
“Cheerleading is the hardest sport I’ve ever done in my life,” he declared while standing in his football practice gear earlier this week. “That two-minute routine when you’re giving it your all … it may seem quick but you put everything into it.”
On the surface, we appear to be dealing with a unique teenager. How many offensive linemen do you know who also cheer?
The more time you spend in Beaulieu’s company, the more you see the light regarding football and competitive cheer and how both run through his veins.
“I love both,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Beaulieu is a 5-foot-10, 280-pound lineman who last season earned First Team All-Division honors as a punter. He’s been playing football since he was five years old. If time permits, he’ll volunteer at the youth level with the West Warwick Steelers, the program that provided him with a sound foundation as a novice.
“I was taller than everyone else,” said Beaulieu, who transitioned from playing a skill position (quarterback, running back) to the line after sustaining an ACL injury.
Beaulieu also owns an extensive cheerleading and dance background. He didn’t have to look far for sources of motivation. His mother Machaela was a cheerleader at Pilgrim High. His aunt Rosana coached all-star cheerleading.
“A lot of the inspiration to do cheer came from both of them,” said Beaulieu. “I would go to the competitions and say to myself, ‘I would like to try it.’”
For five years, the pre-teen version of Beaulieu attended lessons at a dance studio in Warwick called Center Stage.
“I was on the competitive dance team,” he said.
Beaulieu has been living in the competitive cheerleading world since eighth grade at Deering Middle School. The spark was lit after getting cut from the basketball team and wanting to be regarded as an athlete for all seasons. Besides football and competitive cheer, Beaulieu plays tennis in the spring.
“Why not try cheer?” said Beaulieu. “I had been around it my whole life.”
In some respects, football and competitive cheer require Beaulieu to live a double life. He’s become a seasoned pro in flipping off one switch and flipping on another upon making the transition from the football field to the world of cheerleading.
“When I go from football to cheer, I go from remembering plays to remembering counts,” he said. “Being a cheerleader is not about strength. Similar to being a lineman, technique is the biggest part of it. If you have good technique, you’ll be able to do a lot of things. If not, it’s not going to work.”
As a veteran lineman, Beaulieu takes pride in serving as one of the mainstays for his West Warwick football teammates. As a two-time captain for the Wizards’ competitive cheer squad, he’s tasted plenty of success – from capturing back-to-back state championships to helping his school win the 2022 New England Co-Ed Division title.
“My high school friends with football and cheer are completely different,” said Beaulieu. “I grew up playing with the guys on the football team. I just started becoming closer with those on the cheer team who were on the squad when we started back in middle school.”
Noted Wes Pennington, West Warwick football head coach, “He’s the guy who encourages others to be better and play harder and stick together.”
Post-high school, Beaulieu has his sights set on adding to his cheerleading legacy in college. He plans to take in a practice at Providence College in the coming weeks and has already been invited to view the Friar cheer squad up-close at a men’s basketball game this upcoming season.
Before then, he hopes to make a few lasting football memories and be part of a rebirth of sorts. The Wizards didn’t win a game in either of his freshman and sophomore seasons and went 2-6 in Division II last year when he was a junior.
“The energy has been flipped around,” said Beaulieu. “I get to go into my senior year with all my boys I’ve been playing with. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
If you think anyone gives Beaulieu a hard time for being a football player and a cheerleader, think again.
“I’ve never had to worry about anything along those lines,” he said.
Brendan McGair is a sportswriter and columnist with the Pawtucket Times and the Woonsocket Call. A graduate of Providence College, McGair is a five-time recipient of the R.I. Sports Writer of the Year Award as voted by the National Sports Media Association (NSMA).
Follow McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03 and on Instagram @bwmcgair.