When the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 1, it marked the end of a disappointing season. But for Jaguars’ cheerleader Kari Haynes, it marked the end of a fabulous career.
Hayes completed her fifth and final year as a Jaguars cheerleader this season, at age 25. By team rules, cheerleaders can serve for five seasons before having to step down.
So this is a sentimental time for the Yulee resident. “I feel a little sad,” Haynes says.
As irony has it, cheerleading auditions will begin next week. Haynes will be watching, instead of participating, this year. But she has memories and relationships to hold onto — along with her cheerleader uniform.
“I still have my uniform, so I’m okay,” she jokes.
Haynes loyally cheered for the Jaguars during a difficult five-year stretch. The team suffered through a 17-63 record over that period. But like she is positive as a person, she is still positive on the team. And she is eagerly awaiting her season tickets for next year (at a discounted rate for cheerleaders).
Outside the life of a cheerleader, Haynes’ professional life has consisted of a series of discoveries. She was discovered by CBC National Bank while working at a previous job. And then the Nassau County Property Appraiser’s Office discovered her at CBC bank — and offered her a position as an appraisal clerk.
At the clerk’s office, she just finished the hectic period of processing homestead exemptions for the new year. This is one of Haynes’ primary duties.
Meanwhile, she plans to use her newfound time (without her cheerleading commitments) to finish college and maybe teach dance. Self-driven and motivated, she just bought her own house partly with money she saved from cheerleading.
Haynes moved to this area with her parents and attended Yulee High School. She has always had a passion for dancing, which is necessary to become an NFL cheerleader. Most of their routines during games involve complex dance moves.
This time of the year, Haynes is normally preparing for tryouts. This would involve exercising and stretching and eating “cleanly.” Life as a cheerleader is more strenuous than it seems, and more of a commitment than fans probably realize.
During her career with the Jaguars, Haynes traveled to England several times for the “home” games there. She has appeared on team calendars and recalls climbing along a rugged, deserted beach for one shoot.
She remembers her time as a cheerleader with fondness, about friendships she has forged, about experiences in foreign places, about appearances that made fans smile. There is the glamour, but also the hard work, and diligence, and long hours amid a year-round schedule. And the hot Jacksonville sun on September afternoons.
Haynes has also cast a positive light on her alma mater at Yulee High School, as well on Nassau County. Now, she turns to another stage in her young life.
She eventually has to turn in her cheerleading uniform. But she will remain steadfastly cheerful, a hallmark of her personality that people cherish. It helped her to cheer even when fans booed, and it helps frame her life outside of her Jaguar uniform.