Sunday, February 03, 2008
By Bob Mayes
Palatka Daily News
Palatka Daily News
Charles Sharon isn’t the only former Palatka High School Panther who made it to the National Football League with the Jacksonville Jaguars this season.
And this 2001 PHS graduate was dressed out and on the sidelines for every home game, signed untold numbers of autographs, posed for dozens of pictures with fans and made numerous public appearances on behalf of the team.
Jade Skidmore was the former Panther wearing the Jaguars’ teal and black as one of 32 members of the Jaguars cheerleading squad, The ROAR.
“One thing I would like to say is the girls I cheered with were amazing,” the 24-year-old University of Florida graduate said. “I didn’t realize everyone would be so beautiful on the inside and out.
“All of them were so friendly —- and smart. Most of the girls were professionals with very nice careers. We had nurses and lawyers and architects.”
Making the elite squad —- more than 200 candidates showed up for the initial tryouts last March —- was the culmination of a lifetime of training, although it wasn’t an all-encompassing obsession.
Her mother, Sabrina, was the cheerleading sponsor at PHS for about a decade, so Jade was around the squad from a very young age.
She started taking classes at Dana’s Dance World at 3 and won numerous honors in regional and national competitions by the time reached high school.
“Jade idolized some of the older girls,” said Sabrina Skidmore, now an “academic recovery” specialist at PHS. “She was always tumbling and dancing as a baby.
“We went to one of (the Dana Dance World) recitals when she was 2 and we signed her up the next year. She was always tumbling, doing cartwheels, dancing.”
At Dana’s, Skidmore was one of a very talented group that competed throughout the state, as well as in Washington, Atlanta and New York. The group took tap, jazz, ballet and point.
“She was strong in point (where ballet dancers go up on their toes) and jazz, and very good all around,” said Dana Summers, who owned the studio.
“The thing that made her stand out was height, her smile and her personality. That always drew her to the frontline. She was always a very showy dancer.
“You not only have to have talent, you have to have personality.”
Versatile Athlete at Palatka High School
At PHS, Skidmore was not only a four-year cheerleader, but also played soccer and softball and was involved in several other extracurricular activities, including the Anchor Club, of which she was president.
“She was always driven to be the best at whatever she did,” Anchor Club sponsor Jane Hafner said. “She is a very quality young lady who was conscientious about whatever she did.
“Anchor is a service club, not a popularity club. She increased our membership from about 15 to 82 and she was friendly to everybody - not just the cheerleaders and the popular kids.”
At the University of Florida, Skidmore, as a sophomore, made the Dazzlers, a dance team that performed at basketball games. She also graduated with honors with a double major of advertising and psychology.
After working for a year in orthopedic sales in Orlando, she accepted a job with Nobel Biocare as a dental solutions specialist and sales representative in Jacksonville.
But she didn’t try out for The ROAR to realize some lifetime dream. She tried out for more pragmatic reasons.
“I was taking hip-hop classes in Orlando,” she said last week, “and when I got a job in Jacksonville, I knew I would miss dancing. I knew I wanted to be in dancing and to make friends in Jacksonville.
“I went online and saw that they were having auditions in March.”
There were more than 200 hopefuls when Skidmore arrived for the initial tryouts. The candidates were given dance routines to perform in front of a panel of judges a series of three cuts brought the list of finalists to 50.
At that point, each of the girls made up their own routines that they performed for the judges and interviewed with the wife of Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver and the cheerleader program manager, Christy Stechman Zynda.
Each of the finalists was assigned an identifying number and told to call the Jaguars’ office to listen to a recording that would inform them if they had been chosen.
“It took a couple of hours and I called several times,” she said. “It was real nerve-wracking. But when I finally called and heard my number — I was so excited. I called all of my friends and I called my mom and she was really excited.”
Making the cut, however, was just the beginning.
Grueling Practice; Schedule for Squad
Only a couple of weeks later, the squad started practicing three times a week, three hours per day, making its first appearance on NFL Draft Day at The Landing
While the cheerleaders didn’t have to go through the intensive mini-camps and neverending workouts the players did, they kept up their three-times-per-week, three-hours-per-day practices.
Once the season arrived, the squad practiced Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-10 p.m. and from 7:45-10:45 a.m. on Saturday. Then came game day.
“The football games were so much fun,” Skidmore said. “For a 1 o’clock game we had to show up at 9. We would have a practice on the field, then go inside and get ready.
“Then we had an appearance before the game where we greeted fans, signed autographs and posed for pictures.”
An hour before kickoff, the cheerleaders were back on the field. They cheered throughout the game on the sideline and during the first- and third-quarter breaks they did actual routines on the field.
How much football do they actually get to see?
“Surprisingly, we got to see a lot,” Skidmore said. “You definitely want to be paying attention when the ball is near you because you don’t want to get run over by one of the players.
“Whenever we scored a touchdown we did the ‘Hey!’ song. It gets pretty tiring when we are scoring a lot, but it’s more fun and more exciting because we’re doing well.”
The ROAR did not accompany the Jaguars to road games, with the girls instead gathering at a restaurant or one or the other’s homes to watch the games.
For the Jags’ season-ending playoff loss at New England, Skidmore had hoped to be able to catch a flight from a national sales meeting in Newport Beach, Calif., but was unable to work it out.
Instead, she found herself flying home while nursing a cold, getting back in time to watch with her brother Justin, who is her roommate, and Chesapeake Bay retriever, Bay.
“I think we would have done better against Indianapolis,” said Skidmore, who said she has been a lifelong Gator and Jaguar fan because football “was on our TV every Saturday and Sunday.”
With the season over and having had a very positive experience, it might seem Skidmore already would be eagerly be looking forward to next year.
“I haven’t decided yet,” she said. “I love the Jaguars and I love going to the games, but there was an awful lot of time involved.”
That decision does not surprise or disappoint her biggest supporter.
“My husband (Don) and I are, of course, very, very proud of her,” Sabrina Skidmore said. “But it doesn’t surprise me because she is so career-minded.
“I’m glad she did it for this one year, at least, because I would have hated for it to be 10 years down the road and her to wonder if she made a mistake by not trying it.”
Jade Skidmore can always say she heard The ROAR of the crowd in the NFL.