You probably know that Tony Romo and Drew Brees have a big game Saturday night, as the Dallas Cowboys try to keep their playoff hopes alive against the undefeated New Orleans Saints. But you may not know that Lake Highlands will have one of its own on the sidelines of that game – Meagan McDaniel. Meagan, a 2005 LHHS graduate is a member of the Saintsations dance team.
Meagan was first lieutenant of the Highlandettes before she set off to enroll at LSU. She danced as a Tiger Girl at LSU basketball games, competing on ESPN and enjoying the spotlight, but she always wanted to do football. So when her Baton Rouge dance instructor suggested she audition for the Saintsations, she was intrigued. “I knew of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, but I didn’t think the other dance squads counted,” she remembers. “Once I got to the auditions, it was so much fun I really wanted to make the team.” Tryouts included interviews with business professionals and answering questions about current events, in addition to learning a dance on the spot. “It was a lot like a pageant,” Meagan told me.
“Being a Saintsation has helped me meet new people,”Meagan says. “I like performing – I love being on the field in front of a crowd,” and Saturday’s crowd is expected to fill all 73,000 seats of the Superdome.
Meagan has had some great experiences as an NFL cheerleader, and she calls meeting Emmitt Smith the highlight. He was on the sidelines at a Monday Night Football game near the ESPN Sports Center stage when they struck up a conversation. “He’s my all-time favorite, I even named my cat after him. It was the coolest thing ever.” Meagan also met singer Ricky Martin when the team danced at the new stadium in Mexico City on a one-week, all-expenses-paid trip. She also met the President of Mexico and Mexico’s Cardinal, who blessed the stadium. She also danced with the team at Wembley Stadium in London for an NFL exhibition game.
Meagan says her favorite player is Saints linebacker Scott Fujita. “He’s injured and won’t play Saturday, but when we do public appearances and charity events, he’s always there with his wife and twin daughters. He has a good heart, and he’s very giving to this city.”
As for the team’s undefeated record this year, Meagan says it’s been exciting but bittersweet. “It is a high-media year, and we are under a lot of pressure. We’ve been doing TV interviews, and lots of people recognize us when we go out.”
Looking ahead, “we’re hoping to finish first in our division and earn home field advantage so we can play in the Dome for playoffs,” she says. “We don’t play well in the cold, and we don’t want to have to play in Chicago or somewhere like that. And I’m worried about Brett Farve – he’s a great player, and my mom says she’ll have to root for the Vikings if we face them in playoffs.”
Meagan will graduate in May with a degree in Communications, and she’s interested in a career in event planning – maybe with the NFL or ESPN. “I want to keep doing what I’m passionate about.” But for now, she’s enjoying the golden season of the Saints. “These people are die hard fans and they really know how to have fun. They have such pride. After all they’ve been through with Katrina, they really needed this.”