DCC Alumni Spotlight – Shelly Patton Bennett
I had the honor of interviewing Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Alumni, Shelly Bennett, who was a cheerleader from 1986 to 1988. Shelly talked about her time on the team like it was yesterday, and speaks so highly of her experiences and directors. While she had so many once in a lifetime opportunities on the team, she was most thankful for the lifelong friendships she made with her DCC sisters.
Shelly did not always know she wanted to audition to become one of America’s Sweethearts. In fact, she heard about the auditions on the radio and thought, “Why not?” She had grown up watching the Dallas Cowboys football games with her dad, but becoming a DCC wasn’t something she ever really believed she could do. Growing up in Rockwall, TX, she didn’t have an extensive cheer or dance background in high school. In college, she was a Song Leader at Baylor (their dance team) and went on to be a school teacher in her hometown after graduation. Shelly loved teaching her students, but always felt like there was an even more exciting adventure awaiting her.
After hearing about the DCC auditions on the radio, she decided to go for it and do it for fun with two of her friends. So, she packed up her things and headed to Texas stadium in 1986, where the auditions were held at the time. She went into the audition process feeling fairly naive, as it started out as something she was just doing for fun, and can remember waiting outside in the parking lot looking at hundreds of girls who wanted to make the team. As the tryout process went on, she began to meet so many amazing people that she hoped would end up being her teammates. During the finals round of auditions, Shelly met her absolute best friend, Lindsay Merritt Herring. She does not remember much of the stress or nerves of auditions. Rather, what she remembers most were the upbeat conversations she had with Lindsay while stretching before performing solos. From then on, they were next to each other in the same group and have been attached at the hip ever since. “Lindsey is truly my soul sister,” Shelly said, with a genuine smile on her face, “We have done all of our lives together.” They both received the handwritten letters in the mail after each round, saying they had made it one step closer to making the team. Not only did both of them end up making the team, but they are both still best friends to this very day. “I believe our friendship is one of the greatest benefits and blessings I received from being a part of our wonderful DCC.”
Though Shelly humbly stated that she did not think she was the best dancer in the room, she “knew that God had a reason for her to make the team because He had a lot to show and teach her.” When I asked her how she felt when she first made the team, she smiled and responded, “I just truly thought, ‘I can’t believe this is me. I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ It was awesome.” Being from a small town, she believes God put her on the squad because He wanted to teach her about all of His people, from all different places and backgrounds, and about how much love He has for everyone. Shelly met her very best friends on the team and is still very close with her group: Lindsay Merritt Herring, Keri Baird Alexander, Jana Mayo Ramsdale, Norann McDonnell, Cheri Barton Gibson, and Karen McCaghren. These ladies have stayed so close throughout the years and still get together all the time. Shelly’s faith and friendships are truly what guided her through the audition process and allowed her to enjoy her time as a DCC to the fullest.
During Shelly’s time on the team, she made so many lasting memories and had some unique performance experiences. One of her most memorable opportunities was when the cheerleaders traveled to London her rookie year to perform at the American Bowl. They flew there on a charter plane with the Cowboys players and had fun watching them dance around to music and have a good time. She said it was a really fun experience to have as a DCC. She specifically remembers a fun memory when she and Lindsay got a picture with Tom Landry. They were both in a line outside of Buckingham Palace and Tom Landry was two rows over in the line with his wife. They were too scared to go directly up to him, so they got really close and snapped a picture together with him in the background! Shelly laughed thinking back on it and loved having that memory with her best friend.
On top of that, Shelly was a part of Show Group her second year and had the privilege to travel overseas and perform for our military troops. They performed at military bases and even on battleships! This experience taught her about our armed forces and all of the sacrifices they make for our country and our freedom. She loved being with the troops and making them smile, as well as participating in other charitable performances with the DCC, like visiting nursing homes and hospitals. “Aside from the friendships made on the team, getting to give back to the community and charities was probably the most rewarding part of being a DCC,” Shelly said with a full heart.
Along with raveling the world, some of Shelly’s fondest memories on the team were on game days! She loved just getting to arrive at the stadium. They would drive their own cars, and sign autographs and take pictures with all of the fans on the way in. Before every game day performance, they would all come together in prayer right before going out on the field. That was a special memory for Shelly, as she gives so much gratitude to the Lord and all He blessed her with through her journey on the team. Shelly also remembers that exciting feeling of walking through the tunnel and onto the field at the beginning of each game – “It was amazing.” They would go out and do the kick line at the beginning, do routines all throughout the game, and at halftime they’d do a performance, too. Shelly spoke about one halftime routine in particular. She giggled thinking back on the “colored stretchy sacks” they used as costumes for the routine and the sci-fi looking choreography that was really nothing like you would picture the DCC doing, but it was so memorable and fun to perform.
Currently, Shelly is a school teacher in Rockwall, TX. She married her high school sweetheart and has three beautiful children. She looks back on her time as a DCC feeling grateful to have had such a wonderful platform to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives. What she misses most about being on the team is the camaraderie and time spent together. DCC allows you to be surrounded by so many amazing women and, as Shelly says, is “like the ultimate sorority, in that you really are sisters.” She loves the unbreakable bond that she and her teammates have. When they run into each other after years of being apart, they just pick back up right where they left off and continue to have that connection of being a DCC. The close group of friends Shelly talked about throughout the interview were her best friends as a cheerleader and her best friends now. Every time they get together she knows that they love her. They lift each other up and pray for one another. They are truly best friends – “I would have never had that if it weren’t for DCC and I’m eternally grateful.”
Reflecting on her first year on the team, she feels blessed for all God taught her that year. He taught her so much about people and how everybody is brought up differently, but His love for everyone is the same – “He gave me a heart for all different types of people.” Shelly has seen first hand the platform God creates for the DCC, not only now but even for years to come. “Just trust Him and He will take you so many places.” She advises everyone on the team to “enjoy every minute of it and don’t sweat the small stuff… We are so fortunate and there is really nothing like it.” Shelly thanks the Lord for her wonderful experience on the team and for bringing her to meet her very best friends. She encourages everyone on the team to make those relationships because it has been the greatest gift to her for the past 35 years. “Every time you get together, you have that history together and that’s your foundation – It’s awesome.” Shelly made such an impact on me, and the words she spoke showed what the true blessing of being a DCC has meant to her and what a blessing it still is today.
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