A former dance team captain makes the Pro Bowl
By SUZANNE BARKLEY ’09
When Waynesville native Tara Mull ’05 graduated from Western Carolina, she feared her days as a dance performer may be coming to an end. Mull was determined she wasn’t finished performing, however, and in 2006 the former WCU dance team captain became a TopCat cheerleader for the NFL’S Carolina Panthers. Having cheered the team on for the past three seasons, Mull was selected to represent the Panthers organization in the 2009 Pro Bowl in Honolulu. WCU’s cheerleading coach, Kim Cherry ’01, calls it the highest honor an NFL cheerleader can receive.
TopCat cheerleaders who take part in the Pro Bowl must have at least one year of experience and must be selected by a vote of their teammates to be their representative at the event. “It was an amazing honor to be chosen by my teammates and friends, whom I admire so much, to go and directly represent all that the TopCats are about,” Mull said. “Being a part of the elite group for the Pro Bowl was a life-changing event.”
To prepare for the event, Mull received a DVD of choreography and practiced moves she would be performing with cheerleaders from other NFL teams. “We had a few days to review and synchronize our individual styles before we went out to promote the big event as ambassadors of the NFL,” Mull said. “The rest of the week was filled with performances, public speaking, and interacting with fans at military bases, children’s hospitals, parks and a block party pep rally.”
Mull taught at a youth cheerleading clinic for Japanese children as part of her Pro Bowl experience. “I feel so fortunate to have had that opportunity. It’s one of the best things I have ever done. We knew going into the room that it would be a bit of a challenge since the girls knew very little English, but they really did pick it up easily,” said Mull. “It was a moving experience to see something be so successful regardless of such a language barrier. We spoke the international language of dance movement and smiles, and that’s what got us through.”
The former WCU social work major and dance teacher credits WCU for preparing her for her experiences as a TopCat and at the Pro Bowl. “Being a part of the Dance Team and dance program at WCU was an important stepping stone to becoming a TopCat, and I hope that encourages other girls to follow in my footsteps,” said Mull. “Through my social work major at WCU, I was given many public speaking opportunities and was encouraged to get involved in our community, which was great preparation for my role as a TopCat. All of my experiences at WCU helped me grow into the person that I am today, and I hold the Catamounts very close to my heart as I proudly represent the Carolina Panthers TopCats.”