From Southport to Lucas Oil Stadium
| || |
By Nathan Pace
Southsider Voice correspondent
The average career of an NFL player is a little over three years. As a result, one of the longest tenured members of the Indianapolis Colts is Natalie Haseman, a cheerleader for the past seven seasons.
Seven years is above average for an NFL cheerleader as Haseman, a Southport alumna, is the most experienced member on the squad.
“I have to say my passion for dance and performing is what keeps me going,” she said. “Dancing has been such a huge part of my life ever since I was little, and Colts cheerleading has been a way for me to continue doing what I love even after high school.”
While she admits that there is more pressure on veteran cheerleaders, the thrill of performing at Colts games hasn’t worn off in the slightest. “Your rookie year, you are still figuring everything out and getting a feel for how things work, but now it is like second nature, which just allows it to be a lot more fun and relaxing.”
Her path to becoming a Colts cheerleader began when she was 4 and taking lessons at The Dance Refinery. Haseman danced competitively through the studio for 13 years and learned from Lynn Herrick, Diane Zachary and Latricia Wilds. She began cheerleading in the fourth grade at Perry Township Youth Football games and would later cheer for Southport Middle and High School.
“(Dance Refinery) is where my dance career began, and I don’t think I would be the dancer or performer I am today if not for my training at that studio,” Haseman said.
As high school graduation approached, she tried out for the Colts cheerleading squad late in her senior year. Her audition was the same day as prom. As one of the youngest candidates trying out, she had no idea how she would stack up.
“I went into it with the mindset of ‘I’m doing this for the experience, whatever happens, happens,’ ” she said. “I just went out there and did the very best I could and was pleasantly surprised when I made the team!”
Since joining the Colts, Haseman has performed at 10 home games a year plus any home playoff contests. She witnessed Peyton Manning lead the Colts to an AFC Championship in 2010 and performed in the Super Bowl in Miami. Members of that cheerleading squad received an AFC Championship ring just like the players.
More recently though, Haseman added another ring as she became engaged last year to her longtime boyfriend, Justin Hess. The wedding date is in July.
“I actually met my fiance at Southport; we are high school sweethearts,” she said. “I was a freshman and he was a sophomore when we first met and started dating, and we have been together ever since.”
Haseman says the cheerleaders make more than 200 community appearances annually. Some of those events have taken her overseas for photo shoots and USO tours. She visited military bases during a 2009 Mediterranean tour and visited bases in Puerto Rico and Curacao earlier this year. In 2011 she performed at a Colts game in London as the NFL tries to grow the game overseas.
In addition to being a performer, Haseman has coached the Decatur Central High School dance team. She also has plans to pursue a career in cosmetology and earn an esthetician license.
“I attended cosmetology school a few years back, but I want to focus in more on the cosmetics aspect of it to further my education and training and hopefully one day be a big make-up artist,” Haseman said.
As the season winds down, she is looking forward to another playoff run as the Colts are in control of the AFC South. She is undecided if she will audition next season but does have tips for those who are thinking about trying out for the first time.
“As far as advice for anyone who might be interested in NFL cheerleading, you just want to be as well prepared as possible. If you don’t have any dance or cheerleading experience you definitely want to get into some classes, it will help you tremendously.”