By Joe Southern
Taylor H. is living the dream she never had.
The 2014 graduate of Ridge Point High School was never a cheerleader for the Panthers but she is one now for the Houston Texans.
“It is so much fun,” she said. “Our team is awesome this year. The girls are wonderful and the fans are wonderful. My goodness, we have the Super Bowl in Houston this year. Everybody just has such a charisma about themselves in the stadium. These fans are just so much fun to perform for. They make it all worth it, all the hard work.”
Taylor, 20, only uses her first name per Texans policy to protect the privacy of the cheerleaders. She uses her last initial because she is one of three Taylors on this year’s squad.
A resident of Arcola, she attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts her freshman year before switching to Ridge Point.
“Always a dancer,” she said, “ever since I was 3. I grew up competing in Stafford with Masters Upper Level. I was with them eight or nine years. My senior year in high school I was with the Met, the Metropolitan Dance Center of Houston.”
Taylor had tossed around the idea of becoming a cheerleader and then she met one on a ski vacation in Colorado.
“I met this woman named Kim in Colorado, and we got to talking. She was also from Houston and she told me she was a Texans cheerleader and I’m like ‘oh my gosh’ like I literally decided two weeks ago that I was going to try out this season and so I felt like it was fate, I mean like it just doesn’t happen,” she said. We were both staying in the same ski resort in Aspen in Colorado and we’re both in the lobby at the same time. I felt like it was a calling for me to shine for the Texans and I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to try out for the team, so it all worked out very well thanks to Kim.”
Taylor said she was hopeful going into the cheerleader tryouts.
“It actually was not stressful. I had a lot of confidence in my dancing capabilities. That’s my element, so I knew I had that but I knew I had to work on my performance skills because growing up dancing in all styles, you know, contemporary and modern and ballet and things like that require more stoic faces and so that’s what I’m better at. I’m not good with the cheesy smiling, so I knew I had to work on that going into tryouts.
“It was a little overwhelming walking into a room with 1,000 girls that all want the same things as you, but you really can’t think about that. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself and just go for it. It was good to make some friends along the way and fortunately some of them made it on the team with me, which is really nice,” she said.
The rookie has had quite an adventure in her first few months with the Texans.
“My very first appearance on the team was actually for the J.J. Watt Charity Classic. That was super cool because it was my first time to wear the uniform and be with some of my teammates in a huge venue with a lot of Houstonians and to see some of the players and have them give back to our community and be a part of that was really cool,” Taylor said.
Then came the photo shoot for the annual Texans cheerleader calendar.
“I had the privilege of being Miss January in this year’s calendar and I was also one of the cover girls, which I was not expecting at all,” she said. “At the photo shoot when we were in Mexico shooting I thought that we were kind of just shooting promotional things for our Twitters, that’s a huge thing for our team, and our Facebook, to promote the team. I thought that’s what we were shooting in, and then come to find out we were in practice one night and they revealed the cover and I was like ‘oh my gosh.’ I thought that was just for fun, that wasn’t the real deal, so it was really cool.”
Taylor said she was excited to make the 35-member cheer squad.
“Almost 1,000 tried out, so the odds of making it were not in my favor but, so, that makes it very humbling, I’m very proud of myself. It’s a privilege to work with the Texans,” she said.
Her family is happy for her as well.
“Oh my gosh, I think my friends and family are more excited than I am if that’s even possible. I have a very close and supportive tight-knit friend group and family. My entire family lives in Houston so they’re all extremely proud that I’m able to be a part of our home city in a bigger way that we can even imagine. It’s very humbling,” she said.
Taylor spends a lot of her free time helping at home and in the community.
“I’m very close with my family so I do spend quite a bit of time with them and helping with my little sister. I also volunteer at an elementary school every semester in Sugar Land, usually in Sienna, and I also model outside of this,” she said.
When game time comes, the cheerleaders put on very vigorous and finely-tuned dance routines. They pose for photos, sign autographs and also make numerous public appearances in the community.
“It’s a stressful job but it’s a very rewarding job, so it makes it all worth it. The girls are wonderful, the coaches are awesome, everybody’s very supportive,” Taylor said. “It’s a really good environment to be in with all these girls.”