Wednesday, December 31, 2008
By Craig Harvey
Jenica has had men fall madly in love with her in a matter of two seconds.
Lonna has been seen on national television.
Ashley has posed for swimsuit calendars.
All three of these girls - whose last names will not be revealed for safety's sake - have two things in common.
One, they are all members of the 2008 Buffalo Jills.
Two, they were born and raised in Northern Chautauqua County.
Jenica, a 2004 graduate of Dunkirk High School, has been a Buffalo Jill for three years. During that time, she has taken part in events and seen places some will never be able to do.
The St. Bonaventure graduate took part in a trip to Afghanistan to see the U.S. troops.
"It was an experience of a lifetime," Jenica said. "It's hard to sum up. When you go to some place like that, you appreciate what you have and what they are doing for you. When you're there and experiencing what they're experiencing, it just makes you appreciate what they're doing for you. I met some Buffalo Bills fans. Everyone has a story. For them, it brings a part of home to them."
Jenica said she went to Iraq and Afghanistan. Each time she lived out of a suitcase because they traveled to so many different bases.
In high school, Jenica was a cheerleader for four years and a captain for three of those years.
The tryouts can be described as a long process.
It starts with a workshop where nearly a hundred hopefuls learn a dance routine. Two weeks later, each girl comes back and performs the routine with a partner in front of approximately six judges. Following that, the candidates have another workshop and dance routine. After that, the ladies learn the rules and regulations of being a Buffalo Jill.
It does not end there.
The prospects dance with three girls in front of judges once again. Cuts are then posted. The remaining candidates then interview with the higher ups followed by five days of tryouts before the final Jills are selected.
Lonna, a 2007 graduate of Silver Creek, is one of the youngest Buffalo Jills.
It was a dream come true for Lonna who was a Junior Jill when she was younger.
Though she has only done it a year, she has memories that will last a lifetime and she hopes she will have more years as a Jill ahead of her.
"It's sad. I am not sure if I will be able to come back," she said. "(Sunday) might have been my last game. I am really hoping I can do it again. We have so much fun."
The Hilbert College student enjoyed the game in Toronto.
"It was different," she said. "We had to learn how to come out of different formations. It was warm - that was nice."
Ashley, a 2006 Forestville graduate, also joined the squad this year and will never forget the friendships she has made.
"The best part was probably the swimsuit calendar and meeting 40-plus wonderful people," she said. "They are all really sweet and caring. Anyone will go out of their way to help. It was surprising how helpful people were and the amount of dedication it takes. It's a lot of fun but a lot more work than I thought. All the work is worth it for the amount of fun you have."
Ashley played softball and basketball for her high school and only cheered for the Hornets for one year.
"I danced my whole life," the University at Buffalo student said. "I have always been doing that. It's what I was good at. I was just doing it for fun."
Though Ashley had considered being a Buffalo Jill, the reality of it didn't come about until her friend mentioned it.
"I wanted to but wasn't sure if I was good enough," Ashley continued. "My one friend who is on the team mentioned it to me so we did it together. We decided to go to the first tryout and from there on we made it. We both made it so it was fun. We just heard the ad on the radio and went from there."
Being a Buffalo Jill is demanding. The Jills practice every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. On gameday, the cheerleaders are required to be at Ralph Wilson Stadium at 10 a.m. for their 10:30 walkthrough. They also take part in appearances in the parking lot. Each Jill is required to take part in 25 guest appearances along with mandatory appearances with a chance for a Super Bowl appearance as well.
"We need those 3 1/2 hours," Ashley said of the practice times. "They are very productive. I can't imagine not having that amount of time."
Maybe the most intimidating part for a new Jill will be cheering in front of 70,000-plus fans comprised of several intoxicated and outspoken men.
"It's funny," Jenica said. "You get used to it. It has nothing to do with being a Jill. I think that as a woman, if you're around drunk guys, that's how they act. You know how to handle it. To be honest, they don't say anything that's inappropriate. Some have fallen madly in love with me in two seconds."
"There are always a few rowdy fans," Lonna continued. "It's more overwhelming good stuff than bad stuff. I had heard good and bad things happen, but it's more good."
Ashley added, "Everyone is kind of yelling in general. It makes it more exciting. Everyone is a lot more excited and riled up for the game. It wasn't intimidating. The noise level is completely different than when you're down on the field. It's a lot more louder on the field than in the stands."
One thing all three agree on is they all hope to be back with the team next year.