By Andrea McCann
Washington Times Herald
When she was younger, Alyssa, 24, always thought it was cliché when people said “don’t give up on your dreams.” Now she’s living her dream and realizes it’s more than just an expression.
The 2007 Barr-Reeve graduate from Cannelburg, who now lives in Odon and is an engineer at Crane, was invited in August to be an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader. She’d auditioned in 2008 and 2011, then again this year. Turns out, the third time really is a charm.
“Originally, I just wanted to try out to say I tried,” she said. “I didn’t have any expectations, necessarily. That audition was horrible. I was unprepared and it was intimidating. I didn’t think I would try out again until I went to IUPUI and moved to Indy.”
When the Colts played the Saints in the Super Bowl, Alyssa said, it sparked her interest again. She was on the cheerleading and dance teams at Barr-Reeve; the competition cheerleading team at Purdue University, where she started her college career; and was a cheerleader at IUPUI, where she earned a degree in electrical engineering in 2011.
So in 2011 she auditioned and made it to the third round.
“In January of this year I decided I would give it one more try,” Alyssa said. “I felt like every time I did it I learned a lot and improved. I got cut before finals this year. I was devastated. I felt like I was more prepared mentally, physically and dance skill-wise, so I was pretty upset.”
Shortly after that four-week audition process, in June, the coach contacted her about a training program taught by Colts alumni cheerleaders for girls who had potential as cheerleaders.
Unsure if she even wanted to audition again, she said she knew if she turned down the opportunity, she wouldn’t have a chance if she did try out next year.
“I went ahead and did it,” Alyssa said. “At the beginning of August the coach called and said a girl quit and they wanted me to replace her. I was ecstatic.”
She joined 31 other young ladies who cheer at all Colts home games and make appearances to support the Colts organization. They practice eight hours a week and meet with a personal Pilates trainer twice a month.
“I’ve always liked to dance, and I pick up on that stuff fast,” Alyssa said, adding they do some jazz, hip-hop, kicklines and even a little country.
“They provide us with uniforms and practice attire.”
They also get outfits to wear to appearances. Each cheerleader is required to make 20 appearances, which may be Colts-sponsored or special requests. The cheerleaders also help with a junior cheerleader program sponsored by the Colts.
But of all her responsibilities as a Colts cheerleader, it’s hard to beat the excitement of game day.
“The fans make me excited because they’re so into the game,” she said. “It’s so surreal. The amount of people in the crowd doesn’t bother me a bit, but I get distracted by the game because I’m an avid sports fan.”
However, she said she has to watch the game so she doesn’t get in the way and get tackled, along with watching the cheerleaders so she doesn’t fall behind.
“My favorite part of game day is the starting lineup when the players run out of the tunnel,” Alyssa said. “I’ll never forget the very first game.”
Describing the scene, she said the cheerleaders lined the tunnel and made a rippling motion as the players emerged growling and yelling.
“Imagine these 6-foot-2-plus men growling and screaming as they ran out of the tunnel,” she said.
Alyssa said her family and community residents seem proud and are very supportive. Her parents are Jason and Cathy Ochs of Cannelburg and Tony Neidigh of Odon. She said her husband, Derrick, is somewhat reserved, but as the experience has become more real, his excitement is showing more.
“He likes going to games. He tweeted ‘My wife is a Colts cheerleader. Just saying,’” she said with a laugh.
“My mom cried, she was so excited. My parents are season ticket holders, so we’ve always followed the Colts.”
People tell her they’re happy she didn’t give up on her dream of becoming a Colts cheerleader. At appearances, people get her autograph and have their picture taken with her.
“I’m just a normal person,” Alyssa said. “I just sort of fell into this.
“I’m just really glad I didn’t give up on it.”