By Alex Garmezy, Titans Online
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans 53-man roster won't be set until the end of August, but the 27 spots on the 2012 Tennessee Titans Cheerleading squad are final.
A packed crowd at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville watched and cheered last night as the 48 finalists auditioned for 12 celebrity judges in an event sponsored by Sun Tan City.
The panel of judges included Titans Pro Bowl safety Blaine Bishop and his wife, Cella, former Miss Tennessee USA Allison DeMarcus, Fox-17 Morning's Kelly Sutton and award-winning country producer Michael Knox. Their vote counted two thirds of the final tally, while a previous interview with Director of Cheerleading Stacie Kinder made up the remainder of the ballot.
One of the strongest fields in the history of the event was made up of several college graduates, including 10 women with master's degrees, and one Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering PhD candidate at Vanderbilt University.
"The talent and personal success stories in this group of 48 women are truly spectacular" Kinder said. "I think tonight was arguably the most competitive night we have had in many years because we had a pool of candidates that even starting back in the first round were excellent. We could have taken 40 contestants tonight, not just 27."
The NFL lockout of 2011 led to an accelerated training camp and less time to prepare for last season, so for second year members like Anne P., a full off-season and summer training camp will be a whole new experience.
"I am really looking forward to this year and doing our swimsuit calendar shoot early, having our full training camp in June, and all of the typical pre-football celebrations that we didn't get to do last summer," Anne said.
The many long hours of athletic training and preparation, the summer boot camp, and practicing five nights a week while balancing a career is hard work, but "that first run out there on the field for that first game makes it all worth it," Anne said.
Game day is when the public see the cheerleaders, but behind the scenes they are involved at many charitable and Titans community functions.
"I love going out in the community," Anne said. "Nashville is a great community. It's so awesome to be with the Titans and to be able to connect one-on-one and meet everybody that on a normal daily basis you would never get to meet."
Some of the 2012 squad members are veterans, but just like the football team, there are always rookies to welcome in. Heather, from Birmingham, Ala., has been dancing since she was three years old and is one of the new members of the team.
"I think this year I really found myself, found my style, found what they were looking for and really grew into myself," Heather said of making the team after missing the cut a year ago.
Becoming an NFL cheerleader is not easy. Kinder and her contestants pointed out that not every team has cheerleaders, and their team is about half the size of the football team.
The final cheerleader auditions were equivalent to the NFL combine, and draft night rolled into one. Instead of words like gamer, intangibles, and measurables thrown around by analysts, Kinder said that the difficult decisions made Wednesday evening came down to each cheerleader's showmanship on stage.
"That's when they dance they have that confidence, that charisma and that certain 'it' factor that you just can't quantify," she said.
2012 TENNESSEE TITANS CHEERLEADERS