Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cheering for the Bills 

Posted by James at 3:07 PM ET

By Tiffany Mayer
The St. Catharines Standard
Go Steelers — er, Go Bills.

Lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan Anna Tweney-MacKenzie better get used to cheering for the right team.

The St. Catharines teen just made the cut for this year’s Buffalo Jills — the cheerleading squad egging on the likes of Buffalo Bills players Trent Edwards and Lee Evans on the gridiron.

“I was just so shocked,” Tweney-MacKenzie said of winning a spot on the squad. “It took a while to hit me....

‘Wow, I just made the team.’ It’s slowly sinking in.”

Still, Tweney-MacKenzie has wanted to be an NFL cheerleader since she was 15, when she started cheerleading in high school because of her love of football.

“I obviously couldn’t play, so I thought I’d cheer,” she said.

Enrolled in dance off and on since she was 21/2, Tweney-MacKenzie was a natural at generating team spirit on the sidelines.

Buffalo Jills
The 2008 Buffalo Jills via Phil and courtesy the Buffalo Jills and Fisher Creative Image Photography

She joined Niagara Allstars Cheerleading, participating on two squads: one that cheers for the Niagara Spears varsity football team, and the competitive Niagara Ladykats.

But cheering before a crowd of 3,000 at IceDogs games, which she’s done as a Ladykat, isn’t quite the same as putting on a show at Ralph Wilson Stadium in front of 80,000 rabid Bills fans.

She’s not jittery, though. Yet.

“I’m just so excited because I love that thrill,” Tweney-MacKenzie said. “When I walk on the field, I think it’s going to be such a huge rush. I’m nervous mainly because I’m one of the youngest.”

Tweney-MacKenzie competed over five days against hundreds of other women to don the red, white and blue miniskirt that is the Jills uniform. She’s one of two Canadians on the squad that will demand time from her on and off the field at various Bills-related functions throughout the next year.

She won’t be getting paid for her efforts, though. The Jills do what they do purely for the glory.

“There’s no other incentive other than being proud to be a Buffalo Bills cheerleader,” said Tweney-MacKenzie, a first-year general arts student at Brock University.

The biggest challenge will be battling lineups at the border to get to practice, she said.

And perhaps remembering where her allegiances lie when the Bills take on the Steelers at a game to be played in Toronto this year.

It shouldn’t be tough, the gregarious 18-year-old said.

Given the Bills are the unofficial home team for Niagara because of their proximity, Tweney-MacKenzie has a bit of a soft spot for them. She isn’t feeling any disloyalty for raising her pompoms in their honour.

“Since we’re so close to them, I can cheer for them as well,” she said.

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