Texas Primer: The Herkie Jump

Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar. He did it first and watched everybody foller.

If football is the state religion of Texas, then cheerleaders are its evangelists, proselytizing with missionary zeal and spurring on the faithful to praise and glorify their hometown heroes. The Billy Graham of this world is a former Southern Methodist University cheerleader named Lawrence Herkimer. Known throughout the U.S. as Mr. Cheerleader, Herkimer is the founder and president of the National Cheerleaders Association, the first and largest such organization in the world. He will forever be remembered, however, as the creator of the Herkie jump, the all-purpose leap that is the standard by which cheerleading is judged. Far more difficult acrobatic stunts exist, but none so perfectly capture the energy and exuberance identified with cheerleading. The Herkie has that elusive quality of timelessness, having endured three generations of cheerleading.

From the grandstand, the Herkie appears to be a simple maneuver. The jumper goes into a seemingly free-form splay, the right fist punching the air and the left hand resting firmly on the hip, the left leg thrusting forward and the right leg bent at the knee and tucked behind in a modified midair split. In fact, the Herkie requires the same kind of physical dexterity shown by the athletes on the field.

Herkimer first developed the Herkie jump at North Dallas High School in the early forties. Being the shortest kid in his class had led the young gymnast to a career on the sidelines, exhorting crowds to show their school spirit. He perfected the move at SMU, where he was head cheerleader during the Doak Walker era. “Actually, the Herkie was the natural way I jumped in college,” Herkimer says. “I used to jump real high. Whenever I did, I would swing my right arm up to

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