When she was asked to help the Colts mascot, Blue, with a presentation on the Lucas Oil Stadium jumbotron, she had no idea what was about to happen.
Vanessa Wahl, an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader who started with the team in 2017, was about to receive the biggest honor of her career during a December game.
“Blue had me look at the jumbotron and my mom appeared on the screen with a sweet message talking about me, how proud she is and how proud my dad would be. He passed away in July from colon cancer,” Wahl said. “She said she was proud to announce me as a 2021 Pro Bowl cheerleader. It was a magical moment. I started crying, Blue was hugging me, my mom was there, my grandmother was there. They came over and hugged me. It was magical and it was perfect to be surrounded by my favorite people in the world.”
The NFL Pro Bowl, which will take place Sunday at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium, includes not only the top players from around the league, but also a cheerleader selected from each of the 32 teams. In her fifth and final season as a Colts cheerleader, her fellow cheerleaders voted for her to represent them at the game, she said.
“It meant a lot for my teammates to choose me for this,” Wahl said. “I hope I make them proud.”
Wahl has deep roots in Johnson County. She attended Center Grove schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. While at Center Grove High School, she was a member of the varsity dance team. From there, she went to Indiana University and majored in dance before transferring to Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis for general studies.
She also learned to dance in Johnson County, starting when she was just three years old, she said.
“I attended Stage 1 Dance Academy (in Greenwood). My mom was the artistic director there while I was in elementary school and I danced at the studio she owned and finished at Le Rose Dance Academy in Franklin,” Wahl said. “As early as I was walking, my mom had me in a dance studio at all times with her.”
After picking up her pom-poms a final time Sunday, Wahl will work at Herff Jones, an Indianapolis-based company that specializes in graduation products such as class rings, diplomas and yearbooks, she said.
“I oversee 25 states and Canada when it comes to customer service and diplomas,” Wahl said. “I’m a certified yoga instructor. I’m hoping to dip my toes in that a little more. I’m looking forward to having down time. I have a great skill of keeping myself busy a lot, but I’m looking forward to seeing my boyfriend and family and having a moment to relax.”