Prior to Sunday’s game, the last time the Chiefs played an AFC Championship game, Julie Dehner, BSN, RN, was a Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader. It was 1993, the season of newly-acquired quarterback Joe Montana, who owned four Super Bowl rings, and renowned running back Marcus Allen. “There was so much excitement that year because everyone thought we were going to the Super Bowl,” Julie said. Unfortunately, those hopes ended on January 23, 1994, with a loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Julie, one of two cardiovascular clinical trial coordinators, fondly remembers her year as a Chiefs cheerleader. At age 22, she cheered and danced during all eight home games. To prepare for game day, she attended twice-weekly practices, then put in 12 hours on Sunday (practice and game). Off the field, she did paid and charity appearances. Weekly quizzes helped her learn football rules and terminology.
Since she only made $25 per game before taxes, Julie worked as a dental assistant and taught dance classes at a local studio while attending nursing school. “We figured we made about $1 an hour,” Julie laughed. “Team President Carl Peterson was shocked to learn cheering wasn’t our only job. He had no idea how little we were paid.”
Life as an NFL cheerleader meant weekly weigh-ins with incentives for losing weight. Custom-made uniforms consisted of a sequin top and short skirt. During cold weather, a jacket, leggings and turtleneck were permitted. “We also could wear a headband, so we started that trend before Patrick Mahomes,” Julie laughed. At all times, including practices, the cheerleaders wore red lipstick, red nail polish and diamond-stud earrings. Guidelines called for styled hair and makeup.
While the organization discouraged interaction between cheerleaders and players, Julie did meet Joe Montana and walked with him and Marcus onto the field one time on game day. “I always felt protected and safe with the players and fans. I never had any issues,” Julie said.
Many dancers begin lessons at a young age; however, Julie’s love of dance only began as a teenager, so she was surprised when she made the 32-member Chiefs squad. A friend encouraged Julie to tryout, and they were both selected from among hundreds of women. During tryouts, Julie showcased her dancing ability by learning and performing various routines. The contestants also demonstrated their public speaking skills for the judges.
Julie is still a Chiefs fan. She enjoys reminiscing when her hometown team plays and occasionally attends a game with her husband, Bryan. He was always her biggest fan when they dated, watching proudly from the stands.