Loyola’s cheerleading and dance programs faced tragic hurdles this year following the passing of their head coach, Rickey Hill, as well as being displaced due to Hurricane Ida after Loyola’s gym took on significant damage.
But now, after months of uncertainty for the teams, Dylon Hoffpauir, a previous college cheerleader and now a captain for the New Orleans Saints cheer and dance team, has been hired to start in May.
Hoffpauir, with backgrounds in collegiate cheer and professional dance, will be the first head coach of both programs in nine months since Hill’s death.
“I’m just really excited for this opportunity because it combines everything that I love so much into one job,” Hoffpauir said.
Hoffpauir, a Louisiana native, started his journey in cheer by teaching himself how to tumble in his backyard. After becoming a part of his high school cheerleading team, Hoffpauir continued as a cheerleader for Louisiana State University.
During his time at LSU, Hoffpauir began taking dance classes and minored in dance. After graduating, he worked in entertainment at Walt Disney World.
“I got so much cool performance experience and knowledge about the entertainment industry and the world of performance, which is just so helpful now looking back,” Hoffpauir said.
Hoffpauir tried out and made the New Orleans Saints cheerleading and dance team in 2019 and just finished his first season as captain in 2022.
“My favorite thing about cheer and dance is the ability to perform and entertain a crowd,” Hoffpauir said. “I love sports and athletics and being able to combine and entertain a crowd is just so exciting to me.”
Along the way, Hoffpauir has also coached cheer and dance and currently teaches at Move Studio in New Orleans.
Sophomore Kele Johnson, a captain on Loyola’s dance team, has taken dance classes with Hoffpauir.
“He has a lot of experience in both dance and cheer, and I think it’s gonna be very exciting for both teams,” Johnson said. “You can tell he really loves what he’s doing just based on how he interacts with everyone.”
During the Fall 2021 semester, Loyola’s cheer and dance programs were devastated after Hill died from a sudden heart attack on campus.
“Coach Rickey kind of built the program up. It was his legacy. It was his life,” Johnson said.
Mynthia Gonkpala, a junior on the cheer team, said that the athletes are still trying to unpack everything from this past season.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a season. First, we had the hurricane displacing us. Then, our coach passing away. We’ve spent this last season trying to play catch up and get ready for competition season, so I don’t think we even had time to think about a new coach,” Gonkpala said.
Hoffpauir has already contacted the teams and started to connect with the athletes, Gonkpala and Johnson said.
“I think it’s gonna be very interesting to just have a new energy around. He’s so positive already and already making an effort to be more than just a coach,” said Gonkpala.
After graduating from LSU, Hoffpauir worked as a full time admissions recruiter and is currently an admissions counselor and recruiter for Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Hoffpauir said he is excited to continue his professional experience with higher education admissions at Loyola.
“It’s super exciting to now be the coach of Loyola because I’ll still get to work with these students that are excited to come to school and also possibly coach them,” Hoffpauir said.
“During my time as the new head coach, I hope I can develop these young student-athletes not only athletically, but academically and mentally. I want them to feel like their experience as a student-athlete is going to further them somehow in life beyond college.”