Florida State cheerleader born with genetic condition inspiring others on, off the field

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Posted at 10:44 AM, Sep 21, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Mitch Tilmon wanted to be a Florida State Seminole cheerleader. That was his goal, and that dream was achieved this summer.

"I really love games," he said of his favorite thing he gets to do as a member of the cheer squad. "Experiencing the crowd and getting everyone hyped up, it's so much fun."

For his teammates, Tilmon was the perfect addition to the sidelines.

"He always has a smile on his face no matter what happened during his day," said senior Katie Barnette.

"He's an amazing tumbler," added Staci Sutton. "He's doing more elite skills than most people on this team."

Tilmon was born with amniotic band syndrome, a genetic condition that results in deformities of the limbs, but he's never let it hold him back.

"When I was growing up, like, I didn't really see anyone like me," said Tilmon. "So, it was never really, like. I never saw someone that I could look up to and be like, 'OK, if they're doing it, then I can do it.' I really had that drive, and I was like, 'Can I do this?' And like, it just, it feels really good to like be in the spot where I am in now."
The rest is history.

"The first time I ever stunted with him, I like kind of felt bad asking," said Barnette. "I was like, 'Do I need to change anything?' And he was like, 'No, just do the same thing.' I was like, 'OK.'"

"And it hit, it was crazy. I don't think about it as like, oh, I have one arm, like I need to like do this a certain way. I'm like, 'OK, how am I going to overcome this and just be like everyone else and just be like a normal athlete,'" said Tilmon.

"He never asks to be switched out of anything. It's just incredible," added Sutton. "He's an inspiration to the coaching staff as well as the entire team,"

Sutton said she didn't initially see Tilmon's audition tape, as she never received it.

Tilmon used his never-quit attitude and called her up, and she said that as soon as she saw him tumbling, it was an easy decision to add him to the squad.

Alison Posey initially published this story at WTXL.