Thursday, September 29, 2005

"I Feel Better Now Than I Did in My 20's" 

Posted by James at 3:55 PM ET

In the cover story of the September issue of Charlotte Health & Fitness Magazine Debbie Crawford profiles three members of the Carolina Panthers organization including TopCat Denise Porter.

Part accountant and part NFL cheerleader, 35-year old Denise Porter is the debunking the myths of two polar opposite stereotypes. Between her financial analyst position with Wachovia and a master's degree in Accounting, you might think this girl is a number crunching brainiac.

But watch Denise suit up for game day in her black, blue and rhinestones and you'll see a whole different side emerge.

A 10-year veteran of the TopCats, Denise still has the ticket stub from the Panthers first game in Clemson, prior to the team even announcing they would be forming a cheerleading squad.

"I remember sitting in the stands at that game and just wishing that the following year I'd be cheering for the team," she says. "And I can remember later that spring, after competing with more than 400 other girls, hearing my name called as a finalist."

When she started in 1996, Denise says she was a little shy and definitely wasn't one of the stronger performers. But 10 years later, she feels being a TopCat has given her improved self-confidence and helped her develop leadership skills on the field, at work, and in the rest of her life.

Her resume with the TopCats alone demonstrates her growth. Check out a few of her honors: TopCats Captain (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005), Pro Bowl Cheerleader (2002), TopCat of the Year (2001), TopCats Charitable Endeavors Chairperson (2001), TopCats Coach's Award (1999), and TopCats Co-captain (1998, 1999). Whew!

Denise works with a personal trainer and trains in the gym four times a week. She has always been involved in cheerleading and dance, but had not really gotten into working out until her 6th season with the TopCats.

"I was always a thin person," she says. "But not what would be considered physically fit by today's standards. Over the years I've learned it's not about being skinny, but more about healthy living."

And while Denise is fortunate to be naturally thin, she is committed to eating healthy, being sure to include lots of fruit, vegetables, fish and chicken in her diet. She admits, however, to a weakness for Chick-fil-A and slight obsession with chocolate cake and tiramisu.

"I'd rather work out an extra 30 minutes than cut out my favorite foods," she says. "I feel better now than I did in my 20's. I'm stronger, healthier, and all that physical activity improves my spirit too."

When she's not at the bank or on the field, you can find Denise volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, or helping out with the Battered Women's Shelter. Or walking her two dogs through Dilworth and spending time with her best girlfriends, who she affectionately calls "The Beach Girls".

And how about life after the TopCats? Denise isn't quite ready to pack away her pompoms, but she does tinker with dreams of owning her own bridal business and someday being a wife and mother.

For now, though, look for her on the field, a once skinny, shy 20-something now a fit, healthy leader, committed to her family, friends, and her community.