How Ashley G., this week's Gameday Girl, ended up as a New York Jets Flight Crew Cheerleader is a roundabout story.
As a graduate student at Montclair State University, she suffered a serious injury and had to take a medical leave of absence.
No longer attending school, Ashley's parents wanted her to return home to Baltic, CT, but she had grown fond of the New York City suburbs and didn't want to leave the area.
"I couldn't move back to Connecticut. I had to stay here," she said. "It's not that I don't love to *visit *Connecticut, I just knew that I wanted to be near the city."
Desperately looking for a reason to stick around the North Jersey area, Ashley went to Google and searched for the Flight Crew audition schedule. She had choreographed a dance for a college friend trying out the year before, and as her friend moved through the different rounds of cuts, Ashley felt more and more confident in her own ability to make it onto the team.
Luck was on her side. It wasn't too late to try out. In fact, the auditions were the very next day.
She took a picture of herself in her bedroom to use as a headshot ("It was so unprofessional," she recalled), filled out an application, and eventually danced her way onto the team.
"It was almost better that the deadline was then and there," she said. "It didn't allow me to think about things too much and possibly convince myself not to try out."
Making the team was very surreal, she said. As a dancer from the time she was 3, with two older sisters who danced, a mother who taught dance classes, and even a grandmother who danced, Ashley had found a way to turn her passion — and a family hobby — into a job.
Her first year as a cheerleader, Ashley received a casting call from director Denise Garvey for the inaugural swimsuit calendar. "I almost hung up the phone," she said. "I remember saying 'This is Ashley, you know that, right?' "
It was no mistake. She made it into the calendar that year, and in three of the four years since.
Last year, the Flight Crew established its Show Team, which consists of 13 cheerleaders who dance in different areas of the stadium before each game and at various events, such as the Jets Kickoff Luncheon and the upcoming New York City Wine and Food Festival.
"I love it because we get to showcase a variety of different styles of dance," she said. "It's more technical, more intricate, and more personable being on stage."
With a background in hip-hop dancing, Ashley assisted with some of the Show Team's choreography to "help make us funky."
Now a fifth-year veteran, she's proud to call herself a Flight Crew Cheerleader and thankful for the core values she encompasses as a result of being with the squad.
"I started on the team at the age of 21," she said, "so it's truly molded me into the woman I am today."
When she someday moves on from her life as a Jets cheerleader, she'll likely go back to graduate school and become a counselor.
In the meantime, her advice to others: "Don't let anything be just a dream. You have to make the first move and turn it into reality."