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Thursday, Aug. 4, 2005

Danjo lives her dream on the NFL stage


Staff writer

When Yoshiko Danjo stands at the sideline of RCA Dome as a member of the Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders this fall, one thing she will bring to the sideline will be a photo of a Japanese cheerleader.

News photo
Yoshiko Danjo makes her debut as a Colts cheerleader this Sunday as Indianapolis takes on the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL Tokyo 2005 at Tokyo Dome.

A cheerleader who Danjo has never met and will never have the chance to.

After passing the audition and becoming a Colts cheerleader last April, Danjo was asked by a man to take the photo of his daughter to the United States.

His daughter, a former Konan University cheerleader, was killed in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. A few months later, Danjo had entered Konan and started cheerleading there.

"I didn't know about her because she died before I went to the school," Danjo told The Japan Times.

"But the squad often took me to visit her grave and remembered her before a game, so I realized she meant a lot to the squad.

"Her father has been a great supporter for (Konan cheerleaders) since her death. He says I'm similar to her in many things.

"She wanted to become a tax accountant like I am, and she was about the same size as me.

"He treats me as if I am his real daughter and he was very happy when I passed the audition. I hoped I could do something that would please her by performing as an NFL cheerleader."

The 28-year-old Danjo, one of 12 Japanese who have become NFL cheerleaders, will make her debut in Japan on Aug. 6 when the Colts take on the Atlanta Falcons at Tokyo Dome in the NFL Tokyo 2005.

"That is exciting," Danjo said.

"My parents and friends can come to watch my performance and I'm glad that my first game is in my home country."

The NFL Tokyo 2005 was a part of the reason that Danjo opted to take the audition for the Colts.

But the major reason was that she was inspired by the Colts cheerleaders last February when she joined a Pro Bowl tour that invited selected Japanese cheerleaders to the NFL all-star game in Hawaii.

Danjo had a chance to take lessons from NFL cheerleaders there and it was then she started dreaming about becoming an NFL cheerleader.

"At first, I felt overwhelmed by their aura," Danjo said.

"They changed the atmosphere by just standing there. They were confident and almost overwhelming, but very nice to talk with. That was pretty impressive.

"By the end of the tour, I found myself wishing I could become an NFL cheerleader."

She had always dreamed of performing on the sideline of a pro football game.

But because of her height (152 cm), she thought she would have to give it up.

"In cheerleading, taller girls come to center. I am little even among Japanese girls, so I thought the NFL was way out of my reach.

"But they told me that height is never a handicap and I should challenge if I really wish to be an NFL cheerleader. That was very encouraging.

"When I talked with the Colts cheerleaders, I was impressed with their passion to perform for the team," Danjo said.

"They looked very happy when they talk about the Colts. They have a lot of confidence and faith in the team and that's pretty impressive.

"I liked their philosophy of building a cheerleading squad and decided this is the team I should belong to."

After graduating Konan University in 1999, she continued cheerleading by performing for an X League team while studying at two graduate schools to prepare for her career as a tax accountant. She was registered as a tax accountant last February, but her new career is on hold at least until the upcoming pro football season ends.

"I've been questioning myself about when and how I should quit cheerleading," she said.

"My answer is when I experience the top level of the cheerleading and I feel satisfied with my cheerleading career."

Now her dancing stage is the NFL, many of her cheerleader dreams have come true.

"I'm looking forward to performing in the NFL, and I want to enjoy everything there," Danjo said. "I learned the importance of thinking of others through my tough experience in the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

"I hope I can cheer up not only the fans in the stands but all the people who have had tough times in their lives."



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