DCC Alumni Spotlight – Lauren Parker Leonard
Lauren grew up in Michigan and attended school there for two years before transferring to South Florida to finish up her nursing degree. After spending 4 years in Florida and cheering for the Miami Dolphins, she moved to Dallas. Lauren was a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader from 2017-2019. Dallas also became the backdrop for another important part of her life, her husband, David. They were living in the same Florida city for many years before they officially met. David moved to Texas at the same time Lauren was gearing up for DCC auditions. They saw each other at a concert and the rest is history. David was able to witness Lauren’s DCC journey from beginning to end. Lauren said David would set his alarm each day for 2am, when Lauren would not return home from training camp until the early hours of the next day, to check in on her during deliberations. Lauren described David as the total “DCC Boyfriend”, as he was very invested in the team and always concerned for Lauren, her teammates and their well-being.
Her time as a DCC came to a sad close when she blew her hip out at the end of her second season. It was at the Thanksgiving game when she went into the famous jump split and knew something bad had happened. Luckily, the tears in her hip were in a “good” place, meaning she did not need surgery under one condition – she could never do a jump split again. Once her doctor broke that news, she knew her time as a DCC was soon over. However, after retiring she got married to David, and thank goodness she had her wedding when she did! It was right before the COVID-19 madness hit. She says that if she hadn’t retired when she did, who knows if she would have been able to have her wedding. Lauren and David recently celebrated their one-year anniversary.
Lauren has been a nurse for 7 years. She fell in love with nursing when she traveled to South Africa. We bonded over both of our travels to South Africa, witnessing how everyday life is spent compared to the U.S., and how we have a much greater appreciation for the lives and privileges we have here at home. Lauren started out in cardiac surgery then received a position in the ER this past year. I enjoyed talking to a frontline healthcare worker, and hearing about the crazy, yet awful experiences working as an ER nurse during the pandemic. Lauren works in the COVID-19 float-pool. This a workforce sector where she receives a call each morning and is told where she is being sent for the day – all dependent on the number of cases and the need for extra help at certain hospitals.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Lauren if she could go back in time and tell her Rookie – self something that she wished she knew during her time on DCC. She said there were two things she wished she could go back and tell herself:
- To change every time she said “we really have to do this?” to “we get to do this”. If I implement this into my life, Lauren said I will see the good in everything. I should feel honored to be a part of such an amazing organization and I never know what appearance or event could be so life changing for myself or for someone else. We may think it’s trivial, but we need to find the good things, complain less and be more appreciative. Treat the entire process and journey of being a DCC as an honor and privilege.
- And before she made the team, she would said to herself: “On a football team, if there were 53 all-star quarterbacks then you would have the worst football team. A quarterback can’t do what a linebacker can do. If a running-back tried to do what a linebacker does, they would be terrible! It takes a whole different build and experience to do these roles”. She thinks this would have created an incredible peace of mind.
Lauren’s two pieces of advice that she would tell herself, I will remember and continually remind myself. She went on to say, “Not everyone dances like Gina with power and catches the eye, not everyone was put on the team to be a Savannah, who has a military background, not everyone was put on the team to be a hip-hop dancer like Maddie”. Lauren reminded me to not lose myself or the beauty of why I was put on this team. Don’t compare myself to my teammates, stay on my own pathway and honor my strengths. There is no hidden secret and there is no game. Be incredibly proud of what I put out. Handle every moment with grace and love, and leave a legacy.
We are so lucky and fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of an incredible organization, and I know I will never take a moment for granted. It was so great being able to talk to Lauren. We shared so many jokes and laughs, and I hope to have the opportunity to meet her in person one day in the near future!