College Dance Team Central

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Former Montana Dancer With NFL's Cardinals

Passion for dance carries Conrad woman to career worth cheering for
BY Patrick Douglas
Great Falls Tribune

It's a bit like something out of a Hollywood script. A young farm girl from a tiny Montana town tries out and ends up being chosen for an NFL cheerleading squad.

But that's reality for Callie Yeager and her family after the Conrad native made the Arizona Cardinals' cheer team last summer.

"I thought it was neat that she would at least give it a shot 'cause she's always been real brave that way in going and trying out for something," said Callie's mother, Bobbi Yeager. "I thought 'It'd be great if it happens,' but I was always thinking 'Wow, I don't know.' "

Callie's passion for dancing began when she was 3 years old and first took classes for fun. She attended college at the University of Montana where she was a member of the Sugar Bears dance team and then went on to Las Vegas where she danced in the Tournament of Kings show.

In between, she decided to try out for the pinnacle of NFL cheerleading squads — the Dallas Cowboys.

"There's over 300 girls and they're all beautiful, they're all talented and they're all pencil skinny," Callie said of the initial tryouts. "It is intimidating but you've just gotta hold your own and be confident."

While Callie didn't make the final cut for the Cowboys in the spring of 2007, she took what she learned from the experience and used it to land the job with the Arizona Cardinals this past summer.

The tryouts required that the women showcase their talents in front of a panel of judges.

"They usually do it in groups of five and usually the first round is introducing ourselves," Callie explained. "They put the music on, and we just freestyle dance which is just moving on your own. No choreography. Then they do their first cuts.

"In the second round, they teach you a choreography portion, like something they performed at their games last year. That's a fast process. We had to learn and perform within an hour."

The second round of cuts comes the next day, followed by an interview process.

"We have to dress in business attire and that's the scary part," she said. "Then we do our final dance. They post the results on the Internet a week later and ... you're just sitting by the computer waiting for it to pop up."

Then the good news came.

"I couldn't even believe it," Callie said with a laugh. "I had to refresh the page to make sure it was me. Then I started crying. (It was) a roller coaster of emotions. Then I call everyone I know and they're screaming. It's so exciting, but then you realize that you have to move. It's nuts."

Growing Up In Conrad

Callie's mother Bobbi was a high school teacher and her dad Gary is a barley farmer. Callie was a four-year varsity cheerleader for Conrad before heading to Missoula. Even though her parents supported her love of dance, they took a sensible approach to Callie's future.

"I kind of wanted her to be a nurse or something more practical," Bobbi said. "She was always dance, dance, dance and I was always thinking 'Go for something practical.' Her older sister's a banker, her older brother is a paralegal and those are both pretty staid and true occupations and here comes Callie dancing her way through everything."

Now that Callie has made the Cardinal cheerleading squad, her path has taken a different turn. Her parents, avid Grizzly fans, didn't have a favorite NFL team but of course that's changed, and they plan to attend a Cardinals' game in December.

"She always did really well with (the Sugar Bears) and I thought 'Wow, if anybody could do this, she could.' I'd see the girls on the NFL teams and she looked just as good to me as they did," Bobbi said.

"When she was majoring in dance, I thought she could go all the way with it. I think that's about as far as you could go in cheerleading."

Down the road

Callie has aspirations to one day own her own dance studio, a dream that seems much more likely considering what she's accomplished so far.

Knowing that young girls look up to her the way young boys admire professional football players is something Callie doesn't take lightly.

"It's very special. I love it because I want to eventually open my own dance studio and teach young children. I looked up to even just the high school cheerleaders when I was little, and I wanted to be them and I know how it feels," Callie said. "It's just special to make their day and make them smile and make them dream and be able to think that they can do it, too."

Making the transition from small-town farm girl to big city cheerleader has been surreal, but rewarding, she said.

"I really miss home. I'm always still gonna be the small-town farm girl. There's 6 million people in Phoenix and there's 3,000 in Conrad with one stoplight. It's hard to even wrap your head around it," she said. "When you leave, you really appreciate what you had."

"Moving here, I knew no one and now I have 32 great friends," she continued.

"(Callie) was always just one of those easygoing kids," Bobbi said. "She always loved anything to do with dance and was good at it. I guess I should've known. I kept thinking 'She'll get tired of it,' or 'She'll outgrow it,' but she never did."

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