When Vanessa Wahl began as a cheerleader for the Colts 4 seasons in the past, she wrote down one factor in her journal each single day: to be a Pro Bowl cheerleader.
“I wished to be the Pro Bowl cheerleader for all it encompasses,” Wahl says. “Being the last word cheerleader for everybody.”
After a difficult 12 months, Wahl’s father, Jason Mueller, had stage II colon most cancers and died in July 2021. So, the second Wahl realized she was a Pro Bowl cheerleader was much more magical than simply the announcement itself.
The clip, which went viral on Dec. 21 on ESPNW’s Instagram, confirmed Wahl, a “random season-ticket holder,” and Blue, the Colts’ mascot. The followers within the stadium rapidly be taught that the season-ticket holder was an actor, and the reward was for Wahl. Up on the video board was a clip of her mom, Hannah, saying how a lot dance and cheerleading has been a giant a part of her daughter’s life, how her father was a lifelong Colt’s fan, and in the end giving her the information that she was the Colts’ 2022 Pro Bowl cheerleader.
“At first I assumed my boyfriend was proposing,” Wahl says. “Then I noticed my mother on the display screen and it began to sink in that one thing actually huge have to be taking place. Then she talked about my dad and all of the feelings spilled out of me.”
Mueller grew up as a Colts fan due to his grandfather Norm, who was the mailman for the Colts’ advanced. Mueller spent his childhood years visiting the stadium, assembly the gamers, the chief working officer, and even Jim Irsay, the workforce proprietor.
“[Irsay and his family] really despatched flowers for his funeral,” Wahl says.
Mueller and Hannah went to highschool collectively earlier than going their separate methods—marrying different individuals and having separate households. By some stroke of luck, Mueller turned Wahl’s fifth grade instructor when she was a pupil at Walnut Grove Elementary college in Bargersville, Ind.
“He was instantly my favourite instructor,” Wahl says. “I even got here again the subsequent 12 months once I was in sixth grade to deliver him brownies for his birthday, and he nonetheless has a powerpoint that I made him for his birthday once I was in his class.”
However when Wahl’s dad and mom determined to separate up proper earlier than she was in highschool, Mueller got here again into the image.
It’s similar to some other Hollywood rom-com film—Hannah was the coach of the dance workforce when her daughter was in highschool, and Mueller did play-by-play for the soccer and basketball groups. Hannah would deliver Mueller the music for his or her routines. The 2 would chat, then finally date, get married the next summer season, and the remainder is historical past
“He’s my stepdad, however we’re very shut. We don’t consider within the phrase ‘step,’” Wahl says.
Wahl talked about they have been even going to undergo the adoption course of, however it in the end didn’t pan out. Mueller was the primary man in her life that inspired her, supported her, and cherished her, Wahl says.
“Household doesn’t should be by blood,” Wahl says. “If I have been to ever redo my life, I might select him as my dad each single day.”
Wahl is occurring her fifth season as a Colts cheerleader and her second as a co-captain, and nobody has supported her journey greater than her father. Mueller was thrilled to listen to that Wahl was going to check out to be a Colts cheerleader, exhibiting as much as each company and neighborhood occasion she was a part of, season-ticket holder occasions, and would even give Wahl and her teammates presents.
“One time he gave us all vouchers to strive cryotherapy and massages,” Wahl says.
Mueller wasn’t solely supportive of Wahl although—he supported each Colts cheerleader, claiming the title of final cheer dad.
“I’ve so many recollections with him over time,” Wahl says, including that her favorites occurred on Father’s Day.
Throughout her second season as a cheerleader, Wahl and some teammates have been requested to speak about their dads. That was when Wahl volunteered to speak about Mueller and her blended household.
“I see this digicam come into play from the nook, the door opens and I hear my dad’s huge, booming voice behind me, and I instantly break down,” Wahl says.
One other reminiscence was when the cheerleaders did a video of the dads of the ladies on the workforce doing their make-up.
“It was fairly the look,” Wahl says with fun. “Positively not one thing I might put on to sport days or appearances.”
Due to his ongoing assist of the cheer workforce, for Father’s Day in 2021, the entire workforce did a tribute to Mueller, as they anticipated it might be the final time he’d get to benefit from the vacation.
Three years earlier, Mueller’s situation began to say no after he went in for a process and left with power pancreatitis. Half of his pancreas died off and was eliminated, and after two bouts of sepsis and a number of other different well being issues, Wahl and her household came upon he had colon most cancers in January 2021.
The most cancers had eaten away at his colon, a part of his abdomen, and extra elements of his physique, all of which needed to be eliminated. The medical doctors couldn’t take away the entire most cancers and Mueller died later that 12 months in July.
It was a devastating blow to all of Wahl’s household, however her cheerleading household, the Colts, and all of Colts Nation have been there to assist her in any method they might.
“I used to be not planning on attempting out for a fifth season,” Wahl says. “However my coaches sat me down and simply stated, ‘You aren’t completed. We will simply really feel it in our bones that you’re not completed.’”
Wahl’s coach was in a position to relate, as she had misplaced her mom when she was 25, a 12 months youthful than Wahl. By the assist system created inside her workforce, Wahl was able to tackle the 2021–22 season, and may now cap it off with a Pro Bowl bid.
Though Wahl’s father is now not along with her bodily, she is aware of that each time she steps into Lucas Oil Stadium, her father is there too, particularly when she was named to the Pro Bowl.
“I felt my dad with me, in that second,” Wahl remembers with a smile. “It was so magical and I’m so grateful.”
Mackenzie Meaney is a contributor for GoodSport, a media firm devoted to elevating the visibility of ladies and women in sports activities.