Seven-year-old Whitney Ward saw a cheerleading video one day and told her mom, “that’s what I want to be ... a cheerleader.”
Fast-forward 15 years to May 2012
“Mom, guess what? I’m a Tennessee Titans cheerleader,” said Ward with a thrill in her voice on Wednesday night.
The road to the top of the cheerleader world for the 22-year-old recent Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate has taken her from United Cheerleading to Loftis Middle to Soddy Daisy High School and four years of cheering for the Mocs.
A communications major with a minor in marketing, Ward presented herself well enough to the panel of judges on the first day (three weeks ago) as she make the cut from 250 to 150 to 52.
“We danced in groups of three before lunch and they cut about 100,”said Ward whose mother, Shawnee Ward, also cheered at Soddy Daisy “We danced a second time and I made the final cut at 52.”
This past Wednesday, the Titans made the final cut and No.34 Whitney Ward was one of the 26 names called.
“They called us in numerical order and when they called my name and number I couldn’t believe it,” stated Ward. “I told myself, ‘I am a Titans cheerleader.’”
“This is real special for me as I am one of seven new cheerleaders on the team for 2012 and as far as I know, the first Titans cheerleader from Chattanooga.”
The cheerleaders perform only at home games, but attend about 200 Titans events throughout the year.
“This is serious business being a Titans cheerleaders as we represent a big-time NFL team,” Ward stated.
“Any slip ups in any way and we are gone. No questions asked. This a big responsibility, but also a huge opportunity for me.”
The Titans organization looks for cheerleaders who can do much more than cheer, but are going somewhere in life.
“The squad includes ladies who have college degrees, master’s degrees and one even has her PhD.”
One smart young lady in her own right, Ward earned A’s and B’s throughout school, made the UTC Dean’s List three semesters and retained her Hope Scholarship all four years. In high school she received the leadership award and the 110% award as a cheerleader.
Tuesday is an important day for Ward who signs her Titans contract and also has a job interview. She plans to settle in Nashville early this summer.
“I hope to be hired in some type of sales position and my job needs some flexibility to complement my responsibilities with the Titans.”
Ward and all Titan fans are excited about the 2012 season.
“Our home schedule is great as we open against the (New England) Patriots and Tom Brady on Sept. 9 and (Tim) Tebow and the Jets come to town for a prime time game on Dec. 17.”
Other home games include Pittsburgh (Thurs. Oct. 11), Indianapolis (Oct.28), Chicago (Nov. 4) and the final home game with Jacksonville (Dec. 30).
As Brady and company watch from the sidelines prior to kickoff 17 Sunday’s from today, Ward will help lead the Titans on to the field at LP Field for opening day and the dream of a 7-year-old will become a reality.
“Cheerleading has been a fun ride and now I am looking forward to the next adventure,” she stated.
Contact B.B. Branton at William.firstname.lastname@example.org