In 1954, the Baltimore Colts Cheerleaders became the first cheerleaders in the NFL.
When the team moved to Indianapolis, they became the Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders.
"Growing up, we looked up to those women and now, so many little girls continue to look up to these strong women who are physically fit and healthy and really take care of themselves, but also have such amazing compassion for others and have storied careers in their fields," said Colts Owner and Vice Chair Kalen Jackson.
The Colts Cheerleaders kicked off the 2018 season by looking back on 35 seasons of Colts Cheer in Indianapolis.
"When we had the reunion, we had all these amazing women come in to town to talk and share stories and reminisce. You really realize that this program has created lifelong friendships, it's provided a tremendous platform that has helped launch some of their careers," said Stephanie Pemberton, Vice President of Marketing for the Colts. "It's given them a lifelong love and passion for the Horseshoe and for the program."
Now, they're looking forward - to the next chapter of Colts Cheer.
After celebrating 35 seasons in Indianapolis this year, the Colts Cheerleaders earlier today previewed the next chapter in the program's history, which includes a new direction, a new uniform and new opportunities for the athlete-performers in 2019.
"It's going to be a new look with a new uniform, but beyond that, I think it's looking at the program through a different lens and really trying to change some of the traditional stereotypes that have been associated with what or who a professional cheerleader is," Pemberton said. "We really want to make sure we're telling the stories of these amazing individuals - the fact that they have tremendous careers, whether they're engineers or teachers, that they're passionate about their community, that they're involved in nonprofits and volunteering. We really want those stories to come to life in ways that they maybe haven't in the past."
The Colts cheerleaders are many things - they're mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, performers, philanthropists, students, and professionals.
But there's one job that surpasses them all.
A fun look at the Colts Cheerleaders and their career choices!
"I think it all starts with us feeling like we have an obligation to be role models for young girls," said Kelly Tilley, Director of Colts Cheer. "That's our job."
Tilley can still remember being a little girl herself, going to sporting events and watching the cheerleaders. When she followed her love of dance to the NFL, she did so with the blessing of her family. And she wants anyone who follows in her footsteps to have that same support.
"For her to say, 'Hey Dad, I want to be an NFL cheerleader when I grow up.' And for him to 110% fully support that because of all the amazing things that we stand for."
Many women audition for the same reason she did, because they love to dance. What they find out is that cheering on the sideline gives them a superpower that stays with them even after they step off the field.
"I can take this cheerleader personality that I have on the field and that can be my real life personality, which is really needed in society," Tilley said. "To be a support system and cheer the impossible to become possible and give hope and encouragement. I feel like we all need that person in our life."
The Colts Cheerleaders shine - on the field and off.
But it was a discussion about what it means to be a cheerleader that got them thinking and talking about who they are and what they want to become.
What started as a conversation launched a revolution and a resolution - to be the positive light of NFL cheer.
"To bring to light more of our community impact and focus more on our relationship with the community or with each other as teammates or who we are outside of the football field, outside of the uniform," said Rose. "Being able to dive into that led us to this new idea of, 'Let's do something big. Let's do something new. And let's still make it sparkly, but let's make it awesome and just be different.'"
"At first when you start, you're like, 'How are we actually going to pull this off?' said Lexie. "And now that it's happening, it's like, 'Wow. We're really going to do something amazing here.'"
"A lot of the things we're doing are industry leading," said Tilley. "We're the only squad I know of that's provided from their organization grant money to put together a community service project and see it come to fruition. It's one thing to go to appearances, it's one thing to bring awareness to certain organizations - it's another to actually have full support from your organization."
With change comes a bit of trepidation.
"A next chapter is exciting, it's scary, it's new - and there's a part of you that doesn't want to let go of the old," said Rachel. "There is a poignant moment of letting go and starting new. We're in it and it's going to be really cool to look back and know that we were part of the process."
Some things are harder to let go of than others.
"It's kind of hard to beat cowboy boots, especially with some bling and fringe," Rose said. "But when you get a new pair of boots that mean something in addition to just being a great staple to your midwest wardrobe and then you add some more rhinestones and you keep some fringe - it's like a long lost cousin."
The uniform, which is so iconic, is something Rachel hopes the next generation of cheerleaders will place less emphasis on.
"I want it to be that they dream of what it means to be a Colts cheerleader or what it means for the community rather than what it means to put on an outfit," she said. "I like that it forces you to take more notice of the person inside of it."
It's a new chapter and a new era.
A behind the scenes look at the Colts Cheerleader new uniform creative shoot. After celebrating 35 seasons in Indianapolis this year, the Colts Cheerleaders earlier today previewed the next chapter in the program's history, which includes a new direction, a new uniform and new opportunities for the athlete-performers in 2019.
"I think where we're taking Colts Cheer is the ultimate," said Ambria. "We want to be the ultimate cheerleaders and not just cheerleaders on the field, but in the community too."
Along with cheering, the Colts Cheerleaders want to lead.
"I hope we become the foundation of what other NFL teams are working towards," Rachel said.
It takes people to make progress. And why not them?
"Why not our team? Why not this group of women? Why not now?" said Mariah.
"2019, here we come," Rose said. "We are evolving. We are new. We are modern. We are fun. And we are still sparkly."
The world could use a little more sparkle.
And the Colts Cheerleaders are preparing to shine like never before.
For more on the next chapter of Colts Cheer, go to: Colts.com/nextchapter.