When Denise Garvey danced on the sidelines at Texas Stadium, she never let New York slip from her mind.
"Every game under my boots, I always wore 'I Love New York' socks," she said.
Garvey, the choreographer of the Jets Flight Crew, was a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader in 2000. After a year dancing with the New Jersey Nets, a teammate suggested to Denise that they try out for the most famous cheerleading unit in the world.
"And then about three days before the trip, my girlfriend said, 'I'm not going to go. My boyfriend wouldn't want me to go if I made the team,' " Garvey said.
But the Merrick, N.Y., native didn't have a change of heart. After her application received approval, she flew to Dallas by herself.
"They have it really down to a science down there. Even before you go to the audition, you have to apply and you either get accepted or not," she said. "From there, there are semifinal auditions and final auditions, and then you have to go through a series of interviews, you have to take a test on football and you have to write six or eight essays on current events. It's quite a long three-week process. I guess their goal is to try and get well-rounded girls."
The longer Garvey was involved in the process, the more she wanted to become a member of the team.
"When my number was called to enter training camp," she said, "I remember running up to the front of the room and just thinking, 'Oh, my gosh. As of right now I live in Dallas.' "
Well, she kind of lived in Dallas. Garvey's year was fast and it featured plenty of return trips home.
"It was a series of months where if I would go back to New York, I would leave Texas with an empty suitcase, fill it up and come back," she said. "And I did that over the course of a few months. I didn't have any furniture in my apartment— I didn't have anything higher than six inches in my apartment."
But she was held in high regard throughout the community. If you're a cheerleader in Dallas, you're a celebrity.
"If you went to drop off your drycleaning, people really knew who you were," Garvey said. "If you went to school, to work, there would be people who would walk by your classroom and know who you were. Football is king there."
The Cowboys weren't royalty in Garvey's only season, finishing with five wins under Dave Campo. Still, she managed to collect a boatful of memories on the sideline and traveling throughout the world as a member of the team's Show Group.
"I always wanted to travel, and to do it and dance in a production was exciting," she said. "I wouldn't be in Texas for more than a week before they would send me to Japan or Korea or Bosnia or Croatia. I would come home and cheer at the games. If I was home for more than a few days, we were usually off to another country."
The schedule was both demanding and exhilarating.
"We went overseas to spend time with the servicemen and servicewomen," Garvey said. "We did the USO Tours and we also did a lot of corporate events and sporting events. In the country, it was more promotions and corporate events. But worldwide, it was more the USO."
After a year in Dallas, Garvey returned home to be closer with family and friends. She was a Knicks City Dancer from 2001-05 and then hung up her pro dancing shoes. Some of the relationships she built in Dallas exist to this day.
"There were a good handful of girls that come to visit me every other year and I'll go to visit them," she said. "I still keep in touch with my director [Kelli McGonagill Finglass] and she's been a role model to me in a lot of ways, especially with the position I hold now with the Jets. She has been a good person I can look to for advice if I need it."
During Thursday's Thanksgiving Day game between the Jets and the Cowboys, Garvey's Flight Crew will find a way to be part of the action.
"We are going to have a national spot where we'll get to wish all of the viewers a happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the Jets and the Jets family," she said. "It is great exposure for the girls and the Jets and the whole idea of the Flight Crew."