Classy Cats Go Pro

Kelsey, a 2013 K-State graduate, Ashley and Claire, both May 2015 K-State graduates, are ready to go from performing on the field of Bill Snyder Family Stadium to performing on the sidelines in the NFL. 
While Claire is heading south to cheer for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kelsey and Ashley will both be cheering in Arrowhead Stadium for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Going from dancing at the collegiate level to dancing at the professional level is a big transition - there is no doubt about that - but all three women said dancing for the Classy Cats during their years at K-State has prepared them for what lies ahead in the NFL.
"In retrospect, with Classy Cats, we learned responsibility, we had to learn quickly and we had to know how to present ourselves. While it was a smaller scale, it gave me a big step into this next level," explained Ashley. "I feel like without Classy Cats, I wouldn't be as prepared as I am for the Chiefs."
Kelsey and Ashley both tried out for the Chiefs earlier this spring in Kansas City. A weekend-long event, the tryouts were anything but easy.
"Friday night it was just the rookies at the tryouts, and it was so much fun," explained Kelsey. "We were all in the same boat, having the exact same emotions. Then on Saturday, there was just so much going on in one day. There was so much to take in, so many people to meet. I grew a ton. I can't even explain how much I grew in the process of one weekend."
Kelsey and Ashley explained that on Saturday morning, the group learned a dance and had the day to perfect it before performing before a crowd that evening. While also learning the new dance throughout the day on Saturday, the two spent time performing with smaller groups, were quizzed on their knowledge of the Kansas City Chiefs and also performed a solo. 
"We started that Friday in the afternoon and went all the way through Sunday night," said Ashley. "Saturday was the long day; we were in there for 16 hours! We got there before the sun went up and left after the sun had already gone down. It was a long day, but it was a lot of fun."
Like her two former teammates, Claire also had to audition for the Jaguars. In March, she flew down to Jacksonville and spent a weekend with her new team.
"It was a little nerve racking; you had to go out there and introduce yourself, say something about yourself and where you're from," explained Claire. "So I told that I was a student at K-State majoring in accounting and graduating in May, I told them I was the captain of Classy Cats and that I was Sports Illustrated's Cheerleader of the Week last summer.
"I got there a night early and learned the dance, then the following day we had to do that dance. We also did basic splits, a kick line by ourselves, and then we have to improv to music. That was a little difficult because I'm trained in a studio, so it was hard to switch into the NFL cheerleader type of dancing." 
Claire is making the move to Jacksonville this month, and with her aunt and uncle living in the city and an internship set at PricewaterhouseCoopers, she couldn't be more excited to begin this new chapter in a new city. 
"The schedule with the Jaguars is the same for the whole year, and compared to Classy Cats, it's a cakewalk time-wise," laughed Claire. "We only practice two nights a week from 7-10, and sometimes Saturdays if we needed it. Then we perform on Sundays. With Classy Cats and band, we practiced every single day. So it's a big difference... I won't start my job until January, so I'll have this year to focus on doing a good job with the Jags. I'll get this first year under my belt and then next year when I'm full time, PricewaterhouseCoopers is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the stadium. So it should all work out well."
She's already worked with the team, too. After making the squad this spring, the Jaguars hosted an NFL Draft party on April 30, in EverBank Field where Claire had the opportunity to mingle with fans, take photos and perform inside of the stadium for the first time.
"It was my first time really getting to be inside the stadium with all the lights on," she said with a smile. "Their stadium is incredible. It's right on the river. It's the middle of the city and they have pools in the stadium, there is a cabana area inside the stadium, but my favorite part was meeting everybody. You get to meet all the people, the fans, and it's really neat."
Claire, Kelsey and Ashley all have the opportunity for bright futures in the NFL, and though they're all looking forward to cheering in the pros, they can't help look but look back at their path getting there. All three credit where they're at today to the hard work and dedication put in during their years with the K-State Classy Cats.
"The biggest thing that I learned from K-State that I'm taking with me to the Chiefs is that, with the Classy Cats, I always represented something more than myself," closed Kelsey, who was a Classy Cat captain from 2012-13. "It was engraved in our heads that we were representing the university, we were representing the band, we were representing our team, but it was never about me. That was such a valuable lesson for, not only going into the Chiefs, but also into my adult life. I'm thankful that I started learning that at age 18 when I got to K-State and when I performed with the Classy Cats."
NOTE: At the request of their organizations, only first names were used in this story.

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