DCC Alumni Spotlight – Rena Jernigan Walker
Rena grew up Grand Prairie Texas, where every year McDonald’s would put out a poster of the Dallas Cowboys. She always made sure to stop by and get one! If you were really lucky, you were able to get one of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. As a little girl, Rena idolized the DCC. Rena didn’t start her dance training until her junior year of high school when she made the drill team. While dancing on the drill team, she knew she had found her passion! Rena went on to be a world famous Tyler Junior College Apache Belles. Additionally, she judged several drill team auditions, choreographed for several teams and schools, and ran drill team camps. Her dance experience prior to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders was limited to drill team.
During her first year auditioning in 1987, Rena made it through the preliminary and semi final round, but was cut in finals. She knew in that moment she was hooked and could hardly wait to audition again. Rena went straight into preparations for the next year with the knowledge of what to do better than her previous audition. During her first audition she wore conservative makeup, no nail polish and described herself as “Plain Jane”! The next year, Rena knew she wasn’t going to be the best dancer, but also knew she wasn’t going to be the worst, and focused on standing out.
Her biggest challenge was breaking her wrist two months before the 1988 preliminary round at Valley Ranch, only to get her cast was removed two weeks before auditions. It was an obstacle, but one she knew she could overcome. After a year of working out, Rena had toned up, and improved her skills. On audition day, she wore the brightest, tightest leotard she could find. She used the heck out of a hair product called “Stiff Stuff”, painted her nails red and opted for character shoes instead of jazz shoes to elongate her legs. At finals, knowing the amazingly talented dancers she was up against, Rena went the more “entertaining route” with a novelty dance involving a tutu. The best moment was making the legendary Texie Waterman, who was a Finals judge, laugh during her solo!
The 1988 season ended up being Rena’s year. She never thought in a million years that a shy, tom-boyish little girl, who loved to play football in the yard with the neighborhood boys, would become one of America’s Sweethearts. Rena cheered during Tom Landry’s last year as head coach and Suzanne Mitchell’s last year as DCC Director. During her season as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, she was placed in Group 1 with Kelli McGonagill Finglass, as her Group Leader and Tina Miller Kalina, as her 2nd Group Leader. With practice music on her cassette tape and go-go boots on her feet, Rena was finally ready to step out of the tunnel and onto the turf. As nervous as she was, she remembers thinking to herself “You did it!”.
One of her favorite memories was when they gave Suzanne her Christmas gift, a wooden Christmas tree with ornaments made from all their broken go-go boot heels. The cheerleaders would frequently break off heels when dancing, and moving in and out of the splits. Each cheerleader personalized a heel for the tree and Suzanne loved it!
After all these years, stuck in her mind, are Suzanne Mitchell’s words of wisdom, still ringing true. Suzanne would say “Never do anything to tarnish the reputation of DCC” and “Always respect the National Anthem and put your hand over your heart”. Rena continues to admire Suzanne’s respect for our military and Veterans and the sacrifices they made.
Rena auditioned to continue her dance journey, but left with more understanding and compassion for others through nursing homes visits, children’s & VA hospital visits, the Buckner orphanage, the Ruff house visit, and telethons. DCC exposed a different side of life that Rena hadn’t experienced. She is now married to her husband, Tim. She has two beautiful children, Hayden, who is an Arlington Police Officer, and daughter, Chloe, who is completing her masters degree in sports management. Rena currently works on the front lines as a team lead for a Covid-19 testing site. She has spent the past 10 years working in clinical research and enjoys watching “Making The Team” in her spare time. Rena is a member of the Spirit of DCC Alumni and the NFL cheerleaders alumni group. She is proud to be a part of the DCC sisterhood and the legacy that lives on!