Notre Dame graduate has reason to cheer for Arizona

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Kaelin is a member of the Cardinals cheerleading squad.

Jennifer Kaelin used to wonder what it would be like to be cheer on the sideline during a St. Louis Rams football game.

Today she will get that opportunity.

The 20-year-old Cape Girardeau native will take the field this afternoon as an Arizona Cardinals cheerleader when the Rams visit for the first of two meetings between the two NFC West teams.

Kaelin, a 2003 graduate of Notre Dame Regional High School, said she's looking forward to the matchup between the Cardinals and her "home team."

"It's a big game for me," she said. "I've cheered at two of our preseason games, but this is actually the first real game at home for me. It's awesome that my first regular season game is against the Rams.

"I'm really excited because Kurt Warner's on our team," she added, referring to the two-time NFL MVP quarterback who led the Rams to a Super Bowl title in 2000. "When I went to games back in St. Louis, he was one of their key players, and now being here on the field with him on my team is pretty cool."

The Cardinals cheerleaders only perform at home games, which are played in Tempe, Ariz., at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University, where Kaelin is a junior studying business.

However, Kaelin will have the opportunity on Oct. 2 to cheer in a Cardinals home game against the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. The game is the first NFL regular-season contest to be played outside of the United States and is expected to draw over 100,000 people.

"It's a pretty big deal," Kaelin said. "The hype is unbelievable. It'll be awesome to be in a stadium like that with that many people."

Kaelin, one of more than 150 cheerleaders to be selected to 36-person squad, said the idea of becoming an NFL cheerleader was inspired by her interest in dance. She was a cheerleader and a dancer at Notre Dame before studying dance for two years at Arizona State.

In April, she decided to give NFL cheerleading a shot.

"I started off being a dance major in college," she said, "but I had to give it up because I wanted to do business. So I tried to find a way to keep dance in my life. I tried to shoot for something I've always thought about doing."

Cheering for the Cardinals has caused the rookie to become more aware of what's going on in the world of football.

"We never had a team at Notre Dame for football," she said, "so I picked cheering for football over the [NBA's Phoenix] Suns just because I always cheered for basketball in high school.

"When you start cheering, you want to be a little more educated with what's going on in the NFL, so I've been trying to get involved by reading more and watching a little more ESPN just so I don't sound completely out of the loop."

The Cardinals' cheerleaders get a break when then the team travels, but Kaelin said between practicing at least twice a week and doing work in the community, there's plenty of cheerleading business to keep her busy in Tempe.

"We do a lot of stuff in the community," she said. "And it's awesome because I've got 35 new friends that I've met through this, and they're all really talented women. It's a great position to be in, just to be looked up to in the community.

"I love it, I really do. It's an awesome experience."

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