Written by Jay Betsill
The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders rookies' whirlwind of a summer came to a crescendo with the first
preseason game when the Cowboys hosted the Baltimore Ravens on Aug. 16. Following three rounds of auditions and a two-month training camp that culminated with the official announcement of the team and the squad photo, the 10 rookie members finally experienced the euphoria of cheering for America's Team on the sidelines and field at AT&T Stadium.
Erica, a rookie from Friendswood, Texas, took a few moments to discuss how her journey took her from LSU to being a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and her first game day in the NFL:
Jay: Talk about your journey to becoming a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.
Erica: I have always wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I graduated from LSU, where I was on the Tiger Girls dance team, and I wanted to take my dance career to the next level. This is the very best dance team in the world, and there was nowhere else I want to be.
J: How did you prepare for the strenuous audition process that is often described as an "emotional roller coaster"?
E: My time at LSU certainly helped prepare me for the audition process, and [third-year DCC veteran] Jacie was in her last year with the Tiger Girls during my first year there, so we have been good friends ever since. It was certainly nice to have her here, not just as someone I already knew, but someone who could give me feedback and advice and answer any questions I had this summer.
J: Was the preliminary audition back in May your first time to visit AT&T Stadium?
E: I actually had been to AT&T Stadium once before, last summer when LSU played TCU in the Cowboys Classic. We had a meet-and-greet with the TCU Showgirls and several DCC. It is such an amazing venue and auditions can be intimidating enough when you are surrounded by a bunch of beautiful and talented women, but at the same time, you just have to go out and give it your all and have no regrets knowing that you did your best.
J: You survived auditions and made it through training camp, talk about when you found out that you had indeed made the team on that Thursday night at Valley Ranch
E: Actually, making the team took a few minutes to settle in. I had been here every day for two months training for this moment, so it was a combination of relief and accomplishment of reaching my goal and experiencing my dream coming true. I can now say to my friends, family and to the world that I am a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.
J: The squad photo was the very next day. What was it like to be among the others in uniform for the first time?
E: Unlike Cameo Day earlier in the summer when we had to turn the uniform back in at the end of the day, I was now wearing my own uniform with my name on it and put my boots on knowing they were mine. Squad photo day was such an awesome experience being there with all the veterans and we were all there together, whereas cameos had been an all-day thing that was really more individual since we went to various stations. The squad photo was the day when I realized I was really a part of this amazing organization and team. It is an experience that I will always be grateful for, and it made me even more excited for game day.
J: Take us through your first game day leading up to the arriving at the stadium.
E: The anticipation was there from the second I woke up and subsequently arrived at Valley Ranch. I was nervous and excited and hoping that I remembered to pack everything! We were there early practicing in the studio before we loaded the bus to AT&T Stadium. I sat next to Melissa on the bus and while we were taking pictures and talking to fans on social media, the veterans all sang a song that they will teach us that is like our "Game Day" song. When we were on Randol Mill and I could see the stadium in the distance, I definitely got chills and just thought to myself, "Is this real life?" Pulling into the tunnel was kind of like a roller coaster, how you slowly creep up to the very top and then all of sudden you are there.
J: You have made it to the stadium and it is about four hours prior to kickoff of your first game. How did it go from there?
E: As much as we practiced and prepared for that day, I still had a lot of nervous energy. The veterans were very reassuring that I was ready, and I knew I had all of the dances down, but until you are actually out there and feel the energy, there are simply no words that can describe it. I really just wanted to get one game under my belt, so that I would then know what to expect. We did an hour and a half run-through of our entire game, including "Thunderstruck," the quarter changes and some last minute fine tuning.
J: How close are we to game time now and are your nerves calming at all?
E: After the rehearsal, we went back to the locker room to do "fluff and puff" since we had done rehearsals in our practice attire. We have a team meeting, our pregame team meal and our team gifts. I am in Group 3 and my group leader Emma gave us a little survival kit with mini-things that you need on game day, but might forget like lotion, Q-tips, safety pins and Sharpies. She also gave us little bracelets that were really cool. We rotate who gets the gifts, so that every game it will be someone different.
J: The game itself finally arrives. Describe how the game played out and how it felt.
E: We go out for the first time and seeing the crowd and hearing the music is so unbelievable that just when I started to worry that I wouldn't remember anything, your muscle memory takes over and I said to myself, "I've got this." I looked around at my teammates and we were doing it and it was literally the greatest feeling ever to know that I was one of America's Sweethearts and I was performing for the first time on the field. For "Thunderstruck," my adrenaline really took over and we were all going full force and giving it our all every second with total power while maintaining the technical formation and kicks. The jump split was my favorite part and that moment felt like it was in slow motion as I was suspended in air. When we landed the jump split, hitting the ending pose was the greatest sense of pride and relief because we did it as a team. And I can't wait to do it again.
J: During the game, were you able to look around the vast stadium and soak everything in?
E: All of my life I have been competitively dancing and when you are performing, oftentimes it is a blur because you are so focused that you do not really remember seeing much of anything. That is a big reason why I really enjoyed being in the corners during the games because you are up close and personal and you get to interact with the fans. The quarter changes are different than "Thunderstruck" because they are a little peppier and much shorter and it gives you the chance to smile and wave at mom.
J: Was your mom able to be at the game?
E: Charlotte Jones Anderson provided tickets for our families, so they could see our first game in person, so my mom did get to go. After the game, my mom was so proud of me. Her smile was beaming from ear-to-ear because, being a dance mom and owning a dance studio, she knows this is something that I have wanted for a really long time and that I worked really hard for. I am so happy that she got to experience that with me. It made it all worth it and it is something I will remember forever.