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A Dream Come True: Penn State Cheerleader Gets Her Shot At The NFL

For Penn State cheerleader Haley McClain Hill, becoming a professional cheerleader in the NFL has always been a goal, but not one she ever thought she’d see come to fruition.

McClain Hill started cheerleading in eighth grade. Before that, she was heavily involved in the world of dance, but eventually gave that up to pursue cheerleading instead. In her opinion, cheerleading provided her with more future opportunities, so she made the switch. She hasn’t looked back since.

“The sisterhood and camaraderie of cheer really is my favorite aspect,” McClain Hill said. “I love competing with my team because usually you only have one shot to do it right or completely bust. But either way, once you leave that floor you have a special bond with every single one of those people you performed with.”

She emphasized that giving up dance for cheerleading was one of the best decisions she’s ever made. It led her to a school and a friend group she would have never found without the sport.

McClain Hill came to Penn State in the fall of 2013 to pursue a degree in chemistry. However, after a couple of semesters of struggling through the material, she realized her educational passions centered more around mathematics than chemistry. After great deliberation, she decided to pursue a degree in mathematics instead. While the decision set her graduation date back a year, she didn’t fret too much because it simply gave her more time to spend with the group she calls her Penn State athletic family.

“[Before coming to school], I’d never been to Penn State before, but I absolutely fell in love with the culture and passion,” McClain Hill said.

The love she felt for the general energy of the Penn State community drove her to try out for the varsity cheerleading squad. After years of participating in the sport, she knew she had a deep passion for performance and cheer, so she decided to try to find a group of like-minded individuals who shared her passion.

Fortunately for McClain Hill, she found those individuals with Penn State cheer. She credits the squad as one of the main sources of her motivation and drive throughout her Penn State career.

However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And as many Penn State seniors are realizing as graduation draws near, college doesn’t last forever. Eventually it’s time to move on to the real world.

In her search for post-graduation work, McClain Hill stumbled across an opportunity to join the Atlanta Falcons 2018 cheerleading squad. She decided to give it a try, and to her gleeful surprise, she made the squad.

“I couldn’t believe that I reached the absolute peak of cheerleading. I could call myself a professional. I’ve worked so hard to have that respect that when I heard my name called, I was in disbelief and so happy,” she said

But the first thing she did after she found out she made the squad might not be exactly what you’d expect from a professional cheerleader. While she did call her family and friends to tell them the good news shortly after she found out, she immediately ate a large pizza and mozzarella sticks. After weeks of healthy eating in preparation for try-outs, the need to feast was the first thing on her mind as soon as she found out she made the squad.

“I couldn’t help but think about how thankful I was to be healthy, loved, and blessed with so many great people who have gotten me this far,” she said.

McClain Hill was also a member of Air Force ROTC at Penn State. In the future, she plans to become an officer and work to bring more diversity to the Air Force. She hopes to use her influence as a Falcons cheerleader to do some good.

“[I wanted] the ability to be a role model and symbol of strength and grace to young women in the community. I will be able to connect with the youth in the area through my involvement with the Falcons,” she said.

And though she’s come a long way since her early days as a freshman living in cramped Penn State dorms, McClain Hill knows she’ll never forget where she came from. After all, being a Penn Stater isn’t a responsibility to be taken lightly.

“I am so blown away that I will be graduating from this incredible university,” she said. “I will always be a Penn Stater. The future is bright and I cannot wait to make the Penn State world proud.”

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About the Author

Emma Dieter

Emma is a senior from the ever-popular "right-outside" Philly area studying labor employment relations and PR. She's also the Student Life editor for Onward State. She has been a Penn Stater from cradle and will continue to bleed blue and white, 'til grave. She loves trashy romance novels, watching Netflix, and crying over cute videos of dogs. If you ever want to talk more with her about how great she is, or simply have other inquiries, feel free to email her at [email protected]

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