GCU Dance alums shine on national football stage

Noell Hinsley's experience on GCU Dance led to the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, who won the Super Bowl earlier this month.

Noell Hinsley ran onto the field as confetti rained down. More than 123 million people worldwide were watching the Super Bowl broadcast.

“It really is the biggest stage you can be on as a cheerleader, and to be doing it my first year – it was just surreal. I still can’t believe I was there,” she said.

GCU alum Noell Hinsley is a Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader.

On that Feb. 11 night, Hinsley’s parents saw her on their TV screen, a great moment for someone who dreamed as a young girl from Omaha, Nebraska, to one day cheer for the professional football team she loved, the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I’ve got the Chiefs in me,” she said.

What helped get Hinsley on the field was her time at Grand Canyon University, where she performed for the Dance team from 2020-2023, and danced in a nationally-recognized college basketball environment.

“The crowd at GCU is unlike any other college I’ve seen,” she said of all the dancing and routines before and during the game that she performed. “GCU helped me prepare for what cheering in the NFL would be like.”

It also prepared her fellow GCU Dance team member, Zaryn Manier, an Arizona Cardinals cheerleader who was picked this year to cheer in the Pro Bowl.

Noell Hinsley (second from left) said GCU prepared her for cheering in the NFL.

Even as Hinsley was finishing up her time at GCU, graduating with a degree in government with an emphasis in legal studies and preparing for law school entrance to Kansas University, she had her sights set on putting on a Chiefs cheerleading uniform.

“Being in a competitive team in college, when I graduated I didn’t want to let it go yet,” she said. “GCU prepared me physically as a team member and as a person to take me to the next step.”

Before she was a Cardinals cheerleader, Zaryn Manier (bottom right) sharpened her skills as part of the GCU Dance team.

A successful series of virtual interviews and a performance audition last April led to her place on the team.

While studying in law school, she practiced twice a week, cheered at home games, appeared at charity and community events, traveled to Germany for a game, then prepared for the biggest events of the year through the playoffs and Super Bowl.

They were there at the tunnel as the players ran onto the field and then on the sidelines, dancing and cheering.

“You don’t stop moving the whole game,” she said. “When we went to overtime, our hearts were racing. But deep down we knew the Chiefs would pull it out.

“The moment when we ran into the confetti after we had won the game was so surreal,” she said. “We ran to our cheerleaders on the opposite side of the field, and we were all crying and hugging.”

It was an incredible rookie season, much like her years at GCU.

“The school treated the Dance team so well. We were part of the family,” she said.

The Arizona Cardinals congratulated Manier with this poster.

That family included Zaryn Manier, who became a Cardinals cheerleader so prized that she was picked as the team representative at the Pro Bowl on Feb. 4.

Manier said her time at GCU from 2013-16 was instrumental in becoming a pro cheerleader, and it holds a special place in her heart.

“As GCU dancers, we are held to high academic and athletic standards as well as being the spirit leaders for our GCU peers and local community,” she wrote in an email. “We learned how to conduct ourselves through adversity, network professionally, balance busy schedules – all while keeping our faith at the center of success of it all.”

It may be no surprise, then, that her fellow cheerleaders voted her to represent the team at the Pro Bowl because she embodies the team’s “values, sisterhood and leadership.”

Noell Hinsley, who's from Omaha, Nebraska, grew up as a Kansas City Chiefs fan.

The highlight of the week of activities, the Cardinals captain said, was getting to meet and learn from the other cheerleaders.

Manier was also a captain of GCU Dance while earning her Bachelor of Science with an Emphasis in Pre-Physical Therapy. In her third year with the Cardinals, she spent countless hours not only cheering on the team and entertaining fans, but attending numerous community events, all while working at a hospital and studying to be a nurse.

“We strive to be a walking demonstration to young aspiring dancers and cheerleaders that you CAN do both,” she said.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

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