Friday, February 22, 2008

The Girl Next Door: SI Model from UNH 

Posted by James at 6:14 AM ET

By Dave Choate
Even if you're flipping through the 2008 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition just for the articles, keep an eye out for Meghan White.

White, a 21-year-old senior and communications major at the University of New Hampshire, was the New England Patriots Cheerleaders' representative in the famed publication this year. Despite a 10-hour photo shoot in New York City in June, she said the hardest part was keeping her appearance in the magazine under wraps for eight months.

"I think some of my friends were stunned and shocked that I have this whole other life outside the Durham community," White said.

A Bedford native who spent 10 years taking dance lessons at the town's dance center, White said she spent two years at UNH on the dance team before getting restless. Looking for something new and exciting, she heeded the advice of some friends and went to Patriots Cheerleader tryouts in Foxborough, Mass., two years ago.

Meghan White, Patriots Cheerleader
Meaghan at Super Bowl XLII

Out of a field of more than 300 women, White was selected to wear the Patriot red, white and blue. For the last two seasons, she has stepped on to the sidelines in front of thousands of fans to cheer on the team.

White said she's generally unfazed by it all.

"I think I'm more nervous in practice. My heart lies with performing, so it's more of an adrenaline rush when I head onto the field," she said.

That continued last April, when she said she received a call from Sports Illustrated on her way home from shooting the Patriot Cheerleader calendar in the Dominican Republic. She's now back to her routine, traveling from the Durham campus to Foxborough for practice twice a week.

Even with the considerable publicity the photo has garnered — including the grand unveiling of the swimsuit edition in New York City last week — White said she can still walk around on campus without being recognized.

There's a limit of three seasons for a team cheerleader, so White said this will be her last season waving Patriots pom-poms. She said she has made lifelong friends on the squad.

White said keeping up with school and her cheerleading gig can be difficult. She commutes to Foxborough to practice two days a week during the offseason, and often has her weekends consumed by games during the season.

"It's quite the balancing act, but I've done it for the past two years now," she said.

Her father, Joe White, said he and wife Anne couldn't be more proud of their daughter. Joe said his daughter is carrying a grade point average higher than 3.5 at UNH, handles the commute to Foxborough and has juggled numerous interviews since last Tuesday.

"I don't even know how she does it," Joe said. "She just has a good head on her shoulders, and she can do whatever she puts her mind to."

White said the cheerleaders remain busy in the offseason with appearances, including a trip with fellow cheerleaders to visit U.S. soldiers in Iraq, Turkey and Germany, which she called "the most humbling experience" of her life. White also traveled to China last summer alongside other cheerleaders and National Football League staff to promote the sport abroad.

She spoke of exposure to the enormous amount of set-up for the Super Bowl this year in Arizona, which she called impressive despite the disappointing Patriots loss. She said she plans to get into the field of broadcast journalism after school, possibly with sports.

And she isn't shy about who she likes to watch on the football field. White said that, while she is fond of the entire team, wide receiver Wes Welker is her favorite Patriot.

"(Welker's) our hidden treasure," she said. "He dominates the game."

Meaghan at SI.com.

Labels: ,