By MIKE CHAIKEN
By now the nation knows that the New England Patriots are champions for the world having defeated the Seattle Seahawk in the NFL extravaganza known as the Super Bowl. And on the sidelines from the beginning to the end of the Pats’ successful season, a piece of Connecticut was on the sidelines cheering Tom Brady et. al. on to victory.
Karen Link, the 2007 Teen Miss Bristol as well as the 2007 Miss Connecticut’s Outstanding Teen, had her debut season with the New England Patriots’ cheerleading squad this year. The season marked the Terryville native’s comeback from a near debilitating injury… having broken her back in an automobile accident several years ago.
With the Patriots’ season at end, interviewed by email, Karen spoke to the Observer about her past year with the Pats’ cheerleaders and cheering on the Super Bowl champions.
OBSERVER: Looking back at when the season started for you as a Pats’ cheerleaders, what do remember as your personal hopes for the months that would come?
KAREN: My personal hope when I made that team was that I could do and see as much as humanely possible with this organization. Having a full time job, I wasn’t sure how the year would go, but looking back now I can say that long days and sometimes running off of little sleep was so incredibly worth it. The opportunities that have come my way and the events, people, and places I’ve gotten to experience are priceless.
O: And with the season ending, how have the past year’s experiences measured up to your expectations? Also what has it proven to you about yourself?
K: When I first made the team I didn’t know what the year would consist of. Now looking back- I can tell you it was everything and more that I could have hoped for. I’ve grown as a dancer and as a person, I’ve made lifelong friends and I have memories—including those from a Super Bowl— that will last a lifetime!
O: What was it like to be part of an organization that went on to win the Super Bowl?
K: The New England Patriots are unlike any other organization. They treat us so amazingly well and it’s such an honor to get to cheer for them throughout the year. I believe in the organization and everything it stands for, not to mention the team performs amazingly well. I feel so lucky to have been on one of the two final teams standing and to have been able to travel out to Phoenix for the days leading up to the big game and the actual game itself.
O: Looking at the experience of the Super Bowl, how did that in particular measure up to your expectations?
K: It exceeded my expectations 10-fold. Our time in Phoenix was jam-packed, we were on a number of television shows— including “Good Morning America,” “Today,” “Access Hollywood,” E!, and “Fox & Friends— we participated in “The Puppy Bowl” and other awesome events. We got to pump up the crowds at a pre-game rally. And the best part of all- we got to perform on the Super Bowl field and root on the best team in the NFL alongside our best friends. Talk about an absolute whirlwind.
O: What did it feel like for you as you stepped onto that field knowing that most of the United States at one point or another was going to see you on the sidelines?
K: Knowing that the Super Bowl is the most watched event on TV all year was exhilarating. Our team prepared so hard all year for this. Getting to continue dancing into the post season was an honor, making it all the way to the Super Bowl was remarkable. We all feel so fortunate to have had such an amazing year. It’s especially surreal for me that this all happening during my rookie year on the squad.
O: The Pats’ themselves had their marching orders from their coaches heading into the game. But what were the cheerleaders coaches preaching to the squad members as you prepared to appear at the big game?
K: We had a number of practices leading up to the game both while we were in Foxboro and while in Phoenix. We knew that just like the players we had a job to do and we aimed to do it to the absolute best of our ability. Our coach was so happy with our performances all week, we couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.
O What were the most memorable moments about being on the field for you that day… first of all in terms of the action on the field, but also in terms of the whole celebratory experience of the game?
K: I have so many memories from Super Bowl that stick out in my mind. One of them was hearing Idina Menzel perform the National Anthem live, my eyes were tearing up it was so beautiful. The game winning catch by Malcolm Butler was also one of the best moments for me. Our whole team gathered together for a huge group hug. We were in complete shock.
O: Let’s now take a broader look at the past year. As a Pats’ cheerleader, you also did a lot of work out in the community. What were some of your favorite moments of the past year in terms of the good work the cheerleaders, and why?
K: One of my favorite appearances from this year was held at the Animal Protection Center of Southeastern Massachusetts in Brockton. Animal Planet was also there filming for the annual Puppy Bowl, which airs during the Super Bowl. I am a huge animal lover and jumped on the opportunity to participate in this one. We had an absolute blast interacting with so many different animals including rabbits, cats, and dogs that were all up for adoption. Even though it was hard to not bring every animal home with me that night it was awesome to see a crowd there and many animals found their new forever home that day.
O: You also had an opportunity for a lot of other “celebrity” type appearances. What were some of your favorites, and why?
K: The best “celebrity” moment happened at the Super Bowl. My teammates and I got to perform in the Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, and Dierks Bentley concert the night before the Super Bowl. I’m a huge fan of country music so getting to perform with them was a huge honor.
O: At the beginning of the season you also had a special treat, traveling to Cancun for a calendar shoot. What was it like finding yourself a “fashion” model as well as bonding with the other members of the squad?
K: The trip to Cancun last June was a perfect way to kick off the season. It gave the team a chance to get to know each other and bond right from the start. It was also so cool to get to participate in the photo shoots. The whole process was a big learning experience, not to mention we got to perform, and participate in a number of events throughout the week, too. Traveling with our team is always a blast; there is never a dull moment with our group.
O: And with the season at an end, and you have a moment to breathe, are you making plans to try for a season 2 with the Pats?
K: It’s crazy to think that the year has already come to an end; it went by in the blink of an eye. Tryouts are right around the corner. It would be an absolute honor to be on this team again.
For more information about the New England Patriots and the New England Patriots’ cheerleaders, go to Patriots.com. The first set of auditions for the Patriots is scheduled for Feb. 28. If you’re interested, an application is available on the cheerleaders’ page at Patriots.com.