They sparkled. They shined. They started with 49.
The Colts Cheerleaders held their audition showcase at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis on Sunday.
After months of work, weeks of practice, and countless long days and nights, it was a chance for the finalists to pull it all together and wow the audience, the judges, and Colts Nation with their talent, charisma, and passion.
“To see their journey and their story of what they have to go through, not only in preparation for auditions, but during the season as well – it’s intense. It’s not what you see on TV,” said IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.
Rossi judged cheerleader auditions for the first time last April and went on to win the Indy 500 in May.
“Which is probably why he’s back judging this year,” joked fellow IndyCar driver and “Dancing with the Stars” runner-up James Hinchcliffe who, along with former cheerleader Allie Hosler, emceed the show.
Being from Toronto, Hinchcliffe didn’t grow up an NFL fan. But he had good motivation to become one once he came to Indianapolis.
“I learned very quickly when I moved here that if you weren’t a Colts fan, it was really hard to have a conversation with anybody between September and February. So, I started learning and now I love it.”
He also has great appreciation for the role the Colts Cheerleaders play in the organization and the community.
“It’s kind of the face of the organization. They’re representatives,” he said. “A lot of the players aren’t necessarily based here in the offseason, where the cheerleaders are. So, they are kind of flying the flag for the organization in the offseason.”
Colts safeties Matthias Farley and T.J. Green also served as judges. They appreciate the role the cheerleaders play on game day. And they were looking for some passionate women to carry it out.
“We’re out there focused on the game, so it’s their job to get the crowd pumped up for us,” said Green. “We really rely on them for that.”
“Everyone is good,” Farley said. “Now, it’s about finding the best out of a group of very talented individuals.”
There were beautiful ballerinas and hip-hop queens.
There was a singer, a pianist, tap dancers, and a sultry (but family friendly) performance to Joe Cocker’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On.”
There was also a charming performance by Down Syndrome Indiana and a surprise performance by Indiana’s own country star, Clayton Anderson.
A huge Colts fan, Anderson also helped judge the competition – and he wasn’t messing around.
“I feel like you’ve got to take it seriously,” he said. “We’ve got to represent Colts football and being out there and getting to do a lot of things out on the road – you see a lot of other cheerleaders and I feel like the Colts have always stood out.”
And this year will be no exception.
“It was such a talented group that came to audition that I look at the women that made the team and I just feel like the new members of the squad – they’ll be rookies, but I don’t think they’ll necessarily act like rookies,” said Colts cheerleader manager Kelly Tilley. “They just bring a maturity and professionalism to the squad as a class of rookies. So, I’m excited for our whole team to bond and learn from each other.”
Finally, the words they were waiting to hear.
“Vets, welcome home. Rookies, welcome to the NFL.”
A mix of faces old and new, now 26 will sparkle for the shoe.