Written by Ally Traylor
April 2007, a young, timid, yet ambitious girl from Missouri packed her bags into a tiny, two-door coupe and headed to Texas in the hopes of fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. Five years, 53 games, four USO tours, countless memories, and a childhood dream more than fulfilled, this woman now finds herself at a different crossroads in her life. With DCC Auditions upon us and a new team already forming, the time has come for me to say farewell…
How it all began… My journey to the boots.
As a young girl, while watching a Cowboys game on TV with my father in our Saint Charles, Missouri home, I caught a brief glimpse of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders as the game was heading into a commercial break. After watching the group of women in pretty "costumes" high kick, thrash their pom poms, throw their big hair and flash their bright, perfect smiles, I quickly declared to my father "that's what I want to be when I grow up." Not sure if I was serious or just exclaiming yet another "grown up" career aspiration (a daily occurrence in the Traylor household), my father told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be, as long as I promised to graduate college first. Several years later, in 2007, during my senior year of college at Missouri State University, I reminded my dad of that particular childhood aspiration and not-so-subtly reminded him that my college graduation was fast approaching, as well as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders auditions. While he didn't want his "baby" to "leave him" and move "all the way to Texas," he and my mom pledged their support to help me achieve my childhood dream.
A little over one month prior to my final exams and subsequent graduation, it was officially DCC audition season…I remember it like it was yesterday, showing up on the doorstep of the legendary Texas Stadium, saying a prayer and getting in line with 1,000 other women, all vying for a spot as a Cheerleader for America's Team. Round after round, weekend after weekend, I advanced through the process and found myself in the final round…in the same group as THE Nicole Hamilton! If I ever had any doubts of making it on the team before that day, the second I realized I was paired with my DCC favorite and all around amazing performer, I thought for sure I would be headed back home to Missouri. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened, except I headed back home to pack my bags for TRAINING CAMP! Whhhhhhhhat?!
Nervous, anxious, excited and quite frankly still in shock from being invited into Training Camp (oh, and after moving from Missouri in less than 48 hours after finals), I found myself sitting in the First Meeting trying to process the amazing turn of events that landed me in the legendary meeting room of Valley Ranch.
Am I smiling enough? Smile Bigger.
Don't mess up your introduction. You only get one first impression.
Nervous twitching of crossed legs…
Am I the only one taking notes?
Sit up straight, Ally…straighter!!!
I should have eaten dinner. I hope everyone can't hear my stomach growling.
Oh shoot. It's my turn…What was I going to say again?
Please like me. I hope they like me.
For the next month I juggled finishing my college education and DCC Training Camp. My days consisted of homeschooling myself and keeping on top of reading assignments, projects and papers, flying home on weekends to work on capstone projects, doing any and all extra credit assignments to make up for my absence and serving as the Public Relations Chairperson for Missouri State University's annual fashion show which included negotiating and securing sponsorships and donations, corresponding with media and event vendors, and managing the overall event budget. My evenings were obviously full of rehearsals, studying Cowboys facts, staying abreast on current events and getting to know my fellow Training Camp Candidates and new friends.
The stress and juggling paid off. At the end of that month, I fulfilled the promise I made to my father and accomplished a long-term goal by graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Clothing, Textiles and Merchandising, while earning two minors in Marketing and Retailing-Merchandising! Just a few short months later, I accomplished my childhood dream of becoming a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader!!!!!
Preparations for the first game of the season were soon underway and before I knew it, there I was, standing with my toes on the line at the back of the endzone, waiting for our pregame show to begin. Mind racing, palms sweating (heck everything was, it was Texas Stadium!), the traditional DCC introduction was made:
Ladies and gentleman here they are…
Often imitated, never equaled.
YOUR Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders!
As I glanced around the stadium, taking in the moment, the moment that I will never forget: Locking eyes with my parents in the first row, directly in line with my very first DCC yard line. We all shed tears of joy in that brief moment and then I took off for my first performance as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.
From that summer on, WOW, how my life has changed since showing up on the doorstep of Texas Stadium along with 1,000 other young ladies, all just chasing a dream!
The pinnacle of my career… The end of my career.
For an NFL cheerleader, there is no higher honor than serving as her team's sole representative at the NFL's annual All-Star game as a Pro Bowl Cheerleader. Since 1992, the NFL has invited each franchise with a cheerleading/dance program to send one representative to the NFL Pro Bowl. Different than the player selection process, the NFL gives each franchise the freedom to choose their representative through any method they want. Based on peer nomination, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders organization selects its Pro Bowl cheerleader, taking into consideration her leadership, showmanship, poise with both fans and media, and overall dance ability.
On Monday, January 23rd, selected by my teammates, and as the 20th Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl Cheerleader, I embarked upon my Pro Bowl journey along with 25 other NFL cheerleaders. Transported to paradise for a week, all 26 of us, representing our respective teams and cities, quickly bonded and became a very special team of America's Sweethearts…literally!!! Bringing love and cheers from all parts of the country, we spent the week leading up to the game preparing for our gameday performances, meeting with NFL fans from all over the world at various events, visiting terminally ill children in hospitals, spending time with service members and their families at military installations, teaching dance to little girls and so much more!
As the week continued, and as we made our way around the island spreading excitement for the big game, the moment every NFL cheerleader waits for was finally here: GAMEDAY! Wow, what a rush of emotions and excitement this day brought all of us! Although we all were in our team uniforms, vastly different yet uniquely beautiful, there we all stood as one team…I will never forget the moment when we all walked onto the field together and our uniforms sparkled brightly under the Hawaiian sun. After exchanges of glances, smiles, hugs and even tears, it was then when we realized how special this moment was in our life, and it was that moment that solidified our unique sisterhood and friendship.
Though it was my 53rd game, it felt like my first – the excitement, anxiousness, adrenaline, butterflies and anticipation leading up to the game, and then the awe of soaking it all in and realizing it isn't a dream anymore…it's REAL! Proudly wearing our legendary star-spangled uniform, representing the Dallas Cowboys, I took to the field for the last time as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. But, just like my first, right before the music began to play for our pregame performance, I looked up in the stands and there they were…MY PARENTS! Sitting next to them, my incredible sister Alexis and another person who also experienced my first game, former DCC, Natalie Woods! Overcome with joy and even tears, my career as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader had come full circle. It was in THAT moment that I knew my special journey with the Dallas Cowboys as one of America's Sweethearts had come to an end.
Being a DCC has truly been a Traylor family affair. From the very first time this Missouri girl stepped onto the field as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader at Texas Stadium in 2007 until now, my parents have been there every step (and all 53 games) along the way. Though they reside in Missouri, they NEVER missed one of my games. Sharing this special journey in my life with my family has been a huge blessing and one I will never forget.
Just as I thought everything was coming to an end and the Pro Bowl was the culmination of my career, little did I know there one was last thing in store for me…my fourth and final USO tour! In the weeks following Pro Bowl, I began mentally preparing myself for the end of my career, cherishing every final appearance, every rehearsal, every show and every moment spent with the 2011 squad. While at an appearance at Cowboys Stadium on February 28 (my birthday ironically), three of us received a very special invitation to join the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on his first USO tour. And of course, we said YES!
On April 15, Brittany Evans, Kelsi Reich and I took off from our nation's capital for the DCC 's 74th USO tour alongside the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James E. Winnefeld Jr., his wife Mary, actors Dennis Haysbert and Anthony Anderson, comedian Jason "Weeman" Acuna, former MLB pitching great Randy Johnson, and former American Idol contestants and acclaimed Broadway stars Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young. For seven days we toured throughout Italy, Qatar, Afghanistan, Germany and even had the opportunity to spend a day aboard the USS Enterprise on its historic, last deployment.
…We returned forever changed.
So many times you've heard us say what an honor it is to wear our iconic uniform, but as I leave this organization, I leave with the understanding and deep appreciation that the ultimate honor is wearing THE uniform – The uniform that serves, protects, sacrifices and gives us the freedom and safety to dream, and to turn those dreams into our reality. For so many reasons, this tour really put life into perspective and was truly the culmination of my DCC career. No game, appearance, Pro Bowl, etc. compare to what I felt, saw, experienced and learned as I had the opportunity to walk in their boots for a few days.
A service member we had the opportunity to work with and get to know over the course of our tour summarizes it best, and I'll leave you with this:
Hopefully you realize just how much of a difference you made, even if you feel it wasn't much of a sacrifice on your part. To us, and to the guys downrange, you made a tremendous impact. You were able to turn the edginess, the tension, and the underlying negativity of life in a combat zone into joy – even if only for a little while. That is no small gift you gave them. Because of you, and the rest of our talented tour family, none of those guys and gals will return to the States thinking that no one cared that they were out there, or that some of them did not come home.
Today, supporting the troops is a popular notion. Students of history can tell you that has not always been the case. One of the reasons I am now a DCC fan is that your organization has been doing this even when it was not popular. I'd ask you to remember that many of our troops will have will have combat stress-induced problems for years to come after their tremendous sacrifices. When the tide shifts, and popular sentiments are no longer with the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, I hope that you will still support them – in whatever way you deem best – as they face life with their unique burdens.
With the continued help and support from the United Services Organization, I say with confidence that the tide will not shift for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders organization.
As I reflect on my experience as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, words cannot even begin to express how grateful and blessed I am to have been able to live a dream as reality. It has truly been an honor to represent the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at home and around the world!
I will always remember those who not only helped me throughout this amazing journey, but those who were pivotal in helping me achieve my dream. Each of you holds a very dear place in my heart and a piece of you will forever be a part of who I am. Though it may not be public knowledge, a signature of the DCC organization and something instilled in every woman who has worn the uniform is the importance of hand-written 'thank you' notes. As you read this article, hand-written notes filled with special memories are on their way to a group of very special individuals who have truly impacted my life, on and off the field.
To YOU, Our Fans and Friends…As performers, entertainers and people, we are daily inspired by your energy and support! It's been a pleasure getting to know so many of you over the years! I remember meeting some of you outside of Texas Stadium after a game, or at a grocery store for an autograph signing, on a USO tour, at our Family and Friends show, at Camp DCC and so on. I have enjoyed sharing in our love for the Dallas Cowboys and hold dear every message, every letter, every photo and every hug. Thank you for letting me entertain you!
Although I am technically retired from being a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, I still get to hold on to my precious uniform for just a few more months as I am now a DCC Summer All Star!!!!! I, along with the recently retired Brittany Evans, Kelsi Reich, Ashton Torres, and Sunni Cranfill, will be appearing alongside former DCCs Misty Duncan, Elizabeth Davis, Justine Phillips Orf, and Jordan Baum throughout the summer months leading up to football season!
I'm sure ya'll are fully aware by now that there was an engagement epidemic between last season and this one. So also for the next few months, we all will be attending wedding, after wedding, after wedding, after wedding, after wedding, okay you get the point. Ha! This time last year, I was a bridesmaid in Meredith Oden's wedding and this weekend I will be a bridesmaid in Meagan Sharp's wedding!!!!! Yaaaaay, Meggie!
I mentioned earlier that I became a DCC just after my college graduation. Knowing that DCC was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I focused primarily on that, putting other career aspirations on hold for the past five years. As of right now, I will be taking some time away from dancing to explore opportunities in communications and broadcast journalism.
As for my parents… Wellllll, they're still planning on coming to every game LOL! Despite the fact I've officially hung up my pom poms, I'm not so sure they will be hanging up their "Ally's Mom" and "Ally's Dad" t-shirts anytime soon.
Love & Cheers Always,
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5 & 6
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.