By Steve Mazzucchi
With Tennessee suddenly rolling, a second-year Titan-eer weighs in on a QB’s rise from depression, a running back’s Michael Jackson-style moves, and a city’s insanity for missing a $100 million man
Undefeated. That’s what the Titans are since running back Chris Johnson claimed they could win ten straight, since Vince Young regained his starting QB job, since a Peyton Manning jersey-wearing Jeff Fisher told a charity function he “just wanted to feel like a winner.” If all that hadn’t come on the heels of an 0-and-6 start, Nashville might be more excited. But after C.J. (232 total yards, two TDs), V.Y. (239 total yards, one TD pass), and the D (two picks returned for TDs) led a 41-17 romp over the Bills, the melody is merry in the Music City.
And so is Titans cheerleader Ashley Danielle, a former dance instructor (“I used to teach Steve McNair’s son hip-hop”) and part-time seamstress (“My dream is to open my own boutique”) who sews her own swimsuits for the team calendar and even crafts some of the squad’s costumes (“It’s a little cheaper to pay me than somebody else”). A Nashville native who has rooted for the franchise since it arrived in ’98, Danielle gets real about a team — and a town — experiencing its most topsy-turvy season yet.
ESQUIRE: Huge win over the Bills to raise the Titans record to 3-6. What were the keys to victory?
ASHLEY DANIELLE: The Bills had a few injuries on defense and offense, and a lot of penalties, and we capitalized. Their lack of good football enabled us to turn things around, and we were all over their quarterback. Having Vince Young back at QB has definitely changed things for the better. The receivers are receptive to him, and there have been more plays downfield. I never saw Kerry Collins go for a 40-yarder. Vince and Chris Johnson are like a tag team, and people just can’t stop C.J.
ESQ: In the three straight wins, Johnson’s compiled 600-plus yards and six TDs. Yes, that’s against the Jaguars, 49ers, and Bills, but what makes him so good?
AD: Every time C.J. gets the ball, the crowd goes wild. He’s like Michael Jackson. But he’s also a very humble player and a great person. Sometimes, instead of running north/south, he’ll run east or west. He loses yards that way sometimes, but he also finds holes. And unlike some speed guys, he’s not afraid to take a hit, or hit defenders.
ESQ: The Titans started 0-6 after going 13-3 last season. Was everyone kind of in shock?
AD: You have no idea. Nashville turned into a ghost town. Tumbleweeds everywhere. It was just bad all around. When they win, we line up near the visitors’ end and dance them off the field, and we weren’t able to do that. We couldn’t do a touchdown dance. We couldn’t even do a first-down dance. Some of the girls are, like, you know, “Yay!” They don’t know what’s going on, but I actually watch football. I have NFL updates sent to my phone, so at halftime, I know what’s going on across the league. It’s been fun to get back to winning.
ESQ: Do you think losing star defensive end Albert Haynesworth to the Redskins was a big factor in the early-season struggles?
AD: Honestly, I don’t. I love Albert to death. He was probably the best in league, but he’s one player. When he was here, he was pretty much always hurt. And now he’s hurt for the Redskins! I wasn’t caught up in the hype. He’s a good person, but to pay him $100 million? That’s insanity.
ESQ: Have you noticed any changes in Young since his alleged breakdown last season?
AD: I want to state that it’s not alleged. I do recall seeing him a few times a little depressed. Fans were brutal to him last year — it had to have been a shocker for him. I could tell, and I only see him for appearances and on the field. He’s much more social this year, a little more back to himself, how he was when he got to Nashville. I can imagine he’s excited to be playing again.
ESQ: Young also made headlines this summer when he told Esquire he’d be the next black QB to win the Super Bowl, and that he’d be in the Hall of Fame. Was that craziness, cockiness, or simply confidence?
AD: I remember thinking, This man is crazy. You have to have confidence in order for it to happen, but that’s something you should say to close friends and family. But he’s a good guy. I hope that it does happen.
ESQ: What did you think of the Jeff Fisher-in-a-Peyton-Manning-jersey soap opera?
AD: I thought it was hilarious. We had just gotten our butts kicked six games in a row — might as well have a sense of humor about it. I made light of it. The fans here in Nashville did not. The talk of the town was, “Will he be the coach next year?” But as long as we’re winning, everyone is happy. And we haven’t lost since.
ESQ: Johnson’s prediction doesn’t look as crazy as it did a couple weeks ago, but it still seems far-fetched. What’s the feeling on the sidelines?
AD: I’ve been skeptical. Yeah, that would be nice, when pigs fly. As long as they play like they have the last few games, ten straight would be good, but you’ve got to look at the matchups and take it one game at a time. C.J. can have his one little cocky moment. If they keep themselves humble, it could happen. Anything’s possible.
[Ashley at the Titans Website]
New photos from week #8 are up on NFL.com. This week, they’ve got the Saints, Cowboys, Titans, Ravens, Cardinals, Jets, Bills, Eagles, and Colts. Click here to go there now.
Last weekend was the New York Jets’ turn to kick it old school. They took they field as the Titans of New York. (Not to be confused with the New York Titans pro lacrosse team. Actually, now they’re they Orlando Titans, so you know what? Nevermind.)
Anyway, you know what that means – the cheerleaders went there too. Here’s how they rocked the retro swagger. What’s your verdict?
This week, the NFL cheerleader gallery on SportsIllustrated.com features the Titans, Bills, Panthers, Eagles, Ravens, Chiefs, and Rams. Click here to go there now!
By Nash Nunnery
Clinton native Clair Montgomery is living a double life in Nashville, but it’s one she wouldn’t trade with anyone at this stage in her life.
By day, she’s a project coordinator for a Nashville design and engineering company, organizing a mountain of paperwork for the firm’s architects and engineers.
For her second job, she puts down her pen and picks up her pom poms – as a cheerleader for the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans.
With complex dance routines and pretty looks, cheerleaders have become a part of the NFL fabric, just like the multimillion- dollar players on the field.
Borrowing from the lyrics of an old Journey song, 25-year-old Clair Elise Montgomery is a self-admitted small-town girl living in the not-so lonely world of the NFL and the country-glitz of Nashville.
“Clinton is a wonderful community and I have great memories of growing up there,” said the Ole Miss and CHS grad. “I’ve always enjoyed coming back home and visiting with my friends and enjoying the small-town feel.”
Fellow Nashville resident Meredith Edwards, who grew up with Montgomery in Clinton, isn’t surprised to see her friend on the football field sidelines.
“Clair is the kind of girl who’s always up for an adventure. She’s very independent,” Edwards said, adding that her friend also has a competitive edge, whether on the high school tennis team’s courts or Attache show choir’s stage.
Montgomery often was a featured soloist for the show choir, said Attache director David Fehr.
“She was an outstanding performer, had a great work ethic and a voice that was incredible,” said Fehr. “Clair is tough as nails, and her earning a spot on the Titans cheerleading squad does not surprise me at all. She never knew the word ‘quit,’ and I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Montgomery says she tried out for the Titans squad on a whim.
“I was sitting in my car waiting to go to work, and I heard a spot on the radio announcing Titans cheerleader auditions,” she said. “Well, at the end of that week I attended their cheerleader workshop, where we learned a (dance) routine.”
She signed up for tryouts, although she hadn’t regularly danced in six years. Dancing, not cheering, is priority one for an NFL cheerleader.
No problem for Montgomery.
“Clair is one of the best dancers I’ve ever known,” said Edwards.
Montgomery survived the grueling competition, including weeks of exhausting dance routines and detailed interviews in front of a panel of Nashville celebrity judges.
At the end of finals night, before an enthusiastic crowd at the Wildhorse Saloon, Montgomery’s name was called as one of 26 selected for the 2009 squad.
“It was awesome to be chosen, but I think my mother (Debbie) was more excited than I was,” she said. “She knew how much I wanted it and what I had been through over the weeks of auditions.”
Mom Debbie and sister Marly attended Clair’s NFL regular season debut Sept. 20 when the Titans hosted the Houston Texans.
“Going up to Nashville to watch her perform was so exciting,” said Debbie Montgomery, a secretary at Mount Salus Christian School. “They split up the squad on the field and during the first half, Clair’s group performed right in front of our section.”
Sworn to secrecy by Clair not to tell anyone she was trying out for a coveted slot, she was relieved when her daughter was selected.
“It was extremely hard to keep my mouth shut,” said Debbie Montgomery. “Everyone was real excited when I finally told them Clair was a Titans cheerleader.”
Each cheerleader must pass a fitness test before taking the sideline, not unlike the NFL athletes.
“We still had to endure an excruciating month of physical tests and workouts,” said the personable blonde. “They won’t let you near the field to dance until you pass the fitness test. And during the season, in addition to making public appearances, we have dance classes twice a week to learn new game routines.”
Delighted to have a Mississippian on this year’s squad, Titans director of cheerleading Stacie Kinder says Montgomery has surpassed her expectations.
“We are so happy to have her on the squad since the team has so many Mississippi fans,” said Kinder. “She’s extremely outgoing, has a great body and an excellent work ethic.”
Montgomery passed all five phases of the fitness test with flying colors, said Kinder.
Sounding more like a football player’s regime, the test is not for the faint of heart. It consists of a mile run, 25 “V-ups” (abdominal exercise), 25 military-style push-ups, two-minute step test (12-inch block, 100-step minimum) and a 300-meter shuttle run.
The cheerleaders are paid, Kinder said, but it isn’t a full-time salary. “They are required to have a full-time job or to be in school,” she said.
As the season wears on and the cheerleaders make more appearances, Montgomery is recognized more often on the street.
“That’s cool, but one of the best things is our involvement in the community,” she said, referring to public appearances promoting various fundraisers.
And when she puts the pom poms down?
“The firm has been very supportive of me becoming a Titans cheerleader, but at the office, I’m still Clair the project coordinator.”
[Clair at the Titans Cheerleaders Website]
A mixed bag of NFL cheerleaders on the field. Click here to check it out!
By Melissa Anderson
World-Herald News Service
September 12, 2009
Danielle Westerman, a graduate of Papillion-La Vista High School, recently earned a spot as a Tennessee Titan cheerleader.
Danielle Westerman has been dancing since she was a little girl and now, at age 24, she will continue her love of dancing as a professional cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans football team.
She will be known as a Titan Cheerleader, but Westerman said the squad doesn’t shout out cheers like traditional cheerleaders. Instead, the team does choreography on the field to support the team and entertain the fans.
“To be dancing professionally while representing a national brand and an amazing organization has been humbling,” she said. “I am very blessed to have been given this opportunity.”
In order to become a Titan Cheerleader, Westerman went through a grueling two-month process.
During the preliminaries, all candidates had to quickly learn a routine and were judged immediately afterward. Westerman made it through the day and was asked to come back for the final.
The finals lasted for almost two weeks and consisted of learning routines while being judged on work ethic, public speaking, body type, dance ability and personality, Westerman said. Each candidate then was asked questions about the Tennessee Titans organization.
“This interview also gives the cheerleader coach, Stacie Kinder, some one-on-one time to get to know each woman as an individual,” Westerman said.
After making it past the two weeks of examinations, Westerman and the other finalists performed a choreographed routine as well as an individual number in front of a live audience and a panel of judges. The finalists performed in groups of three or four and were scored on different factors.
Once Westerman made the team, she and her teammates had to pass an extensive fitness test, to ensure that each had enough stamina to dance through a football game, and a written test about the Titans.
“There are 26 incredible women on the team, and every single woman has blown me away,” Westerman said. “Each woman is employed for an incredible company or is currently going to school to achieve very demanding degrees. I have never been around such an amazing group of women who are so accomplished.”
Westerman said she is looking forward to making new friends and becoming involved in community service events.
“I love giving back to the community, and this will give me an incredible opportunity to do so,” she said. “I am also very excited to step onto the field for the first time and to perform for our amazing fans. Dancing for the NFL will be a completely different dynamic than anything I’ve ever done before. I can’t wait!”
Westerman and her teammates had the opportunity to dance at the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 9. Her first preseason home game was Aug. 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and her first regular season home game will be Sept. 20 against the Houston Texans.
Westerman was co-captain of the Papillion-La Vista Junior High Cheerleading Squad and also danced on the Papillion-La Vista High School Pom Squad, becoming a co-captain in 2003. She then attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she danced on the UNO Dance Team as well as for the Omaha Beef Prime Dancers.
While performing with her dance teams, going to classes and working, Westerman also taught hip-hop classes for a local dance studio in north Omaha called Donna’s Dance Studio. There, she choreographed tryout and competition routines for many high schools in the Omaha area.
Westerman also became a backup dancer for a local artist, David Benjamin, when he performed shows at Linoma Beach.
After graduating from UNO with a degree in marketing, Westerman decided to move to Nashville “on a whim for a change of scenery” in March 2008. She will begin graduate school in the spring to become a registered dietitian.
“I hope to open my own business that can incorporate both studies,” she said.
She had never been to Nashville until about two weeks before moving to look for apartments. She said she was looking for bigger opportunities in dance and music and figured the “City of Country Music” would be a great place for her.
Once again thanks to Reader Kevin. This time Kevin was in Nashville and he sent us a few photos of the Titans Cheerleaders.
[Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders]
By Beverly Keller, Editor
The Budget Newspaper
For 11-year-old Aviana Sean Cline of Sugarcreek, nothing could stop her from performing for the second straight year as a junior Tennessee Titan Cheerleader – not even a harsh economic climate.
Aviana has dreams of being a Tennessee Titan Cheerleader when she grows up. Earlier this year, when her parents broke the news to her that her dream to be a part of the junior program this year wouldn’t happen due to financial constraints, the young go-getter set off on her own to find an answer.
While she was devastated by the news that her parents could not afford to send her to the program, Aviana was determined that she would be a part of the program. In fact, Aviana took matters into her own hands and raised money for the trip on her own.
By doing odd jobs for neighbors and friends and holding small fundraisers, Aviana was able to raise the funds needed to book the trip to Tennessee and once again grace Titan Field. Her hard work raised nearly $1,000 that will be used for her uniform, gas, hotel and food that is needed in order for her to attend the clinics.
Throughout September, Aviana will participate in three cheer and dance clinics with the Tennessee Titan Cheerleaders that will culminate in a performance at the home-opener on September 20. She will be cheering alongside current cheerleaders and other juniors from across the United States while Tennessee faces off with the Houston Texans.
The daughter of Kevin and Brynn Cline is a fifth grade student at Ragersville Elementary. She attends Barrs Mill Church of God near Sugarcreek. Her love of dance and performance has led her to begin her 10th year of dance classes. She studies jazz as well as hip-hop, modern, ballet and pointe with Shelly Beitzel at the Tuscarawas Dance Arts Center in Dover. She also takes tumbling and back handspring classes at the Tuscarawas County YMCA. In addition to her dancing ability, Aviana is working to master the piano and is a student of Amy McNutt.
Being a Junior Titans Cheerleader is an incredible opportunity that girls ages 6 – 14 look forward to every fall, and thanks to her hard work, Aviana will be one of them. Her family will travel eight hours to the clinics each weekend in September.
“It is a dream for her,” Aviana’s mother Brynn explained. “This is something she has always wanted to do. It started out watching the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and the show that is on television each year that shows the women who try out to be a part of the squad, and it just grew.”
Brynn explained that Aviana saw a commercial on the program about the junior program at Houston and instantly wanted to be a part of it.
“I told her that is quite far from Ohio and she asked if there was something closer. I looked online and found the closest team with a stellar junior program was in Nashville.”
The rest, as the saying goes, is history. “Aviana applied last year and was accepted,” Brynn said. “It was just an incredible experience last year for her and she is excited to be part of it again this year.”
Jenna is a former Tennessee Titans Cheerleader.
From the WRCBTV.com
Jenna McKee joined the Channel 3 Eyewitness News staff in June 2008. You can see her reports throughout the week on Eyewitness News at 6:00 and Chattanooga’s #1 newscast, Eyewitness News at 11:00. Jenna is a Tennessee native and most recently worked for WKRN-TV in Nashville as a reporter. Before her stop in the Music City, Jenna was an Anchor/Reporter for WBBJ-TV in Jackson, TN. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Electronic Media Journalism from Middle Tennessee State University where she was a Blue Raider cheerleader.
Our list of reporters is here.
The Sports Illustrated NFL Cheerleader gallery is back for the 2009-10 season. The first gallery of the year includes Cheerleaders from the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, and Indianapolis Colts. Click here to go there now.
The Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders unveiled their 2009-2010 swimsuit calendar last night, August, 26th at Cabana’s in Nashville. Over 300 fans attended this event to show their appreciation for the cheerleaders hard work and dedication to the Titans organization!
With the advent of the new season, NFL.com started up their cheerleader galleries. Click here to see what’s new.
Each year, the Hall of Fame game marks the beginning of the NFL preseason in Canton, OH. The football teams usually bring their cheerleaders along to add to the excitement of game day. This year, the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders and Buffalo Jills hit the road to entertain fans at the Bills/Titans game in Ohio. The website Exposay.com has a photos from the game, including a few of the Cheerleaders. Click here to go there now.