November 13, 2019
By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
Emilee Ketron was in college when she was involved in a bad car wreck.
At the time, her orthopedic surgeon said she would never cheer or dance again.
“You’re done. You need to take it easy,” Ketron said she was told.
Originally from Kingsport, Tennessee, she has an undergraduate degree from Middle Tennessee State University and a master’s from East Tennessee State University. The former Miss Johnson City and Miss MTSU now works as a speech language pathologist for Rutherford County Schools.
And despite the surgeon’s assertion, Ketron is also a cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans.
Overcoming her situation took a lot physical therapy while in a wheel chair and a ton of self-determination, a lesson she likes to pass along as a teacher.
“I try to instill that in my speech students too,“ she explained.
Ketron recently took part in a discussion about her dual-life, during an in-service training with other speech language pathologists within the school district.
QUESTION: What is the most surprising thing about being a Titans cheerleader that you didn’t expect?
ANSWER: I don’t think I realized how much we practiced. During the summer, we practice for four to five days a week for two to three hours, and then even now, we practice three days a week, and then we have games on top of that and then appearances. But you guys are my work family and they are my cheer family, so they’re also an additional support system. It has been great because now I have 28 more people that are also part of my family and that I’m also very close with.
QUESTION: What’s the process to become a Titans cheerleader?
ANSWER: You have to signup, typically that’s all done online. This year was a little different than they did in the past because you could try out as a flyer — someone in stunts that flies, which is what I do — a dancer, and then you could also try out as a base — we actually have eight guys on the team this year.
You go through preliminaries and a lot of that’s based on whether you can dance and do they think you can learn the choreography of the routines on the sidelines. They make a cut, they cut about half the people. Last year I think there were about 300 who tried out and they took 20 girls and eight guys.
After that you have semi-finals and they teach you choreography and you have to perform that — it’s about 28 to 30 counts of dance. And then they send you an email to tell you if you made finals. And then for finals, you have to practice every night that week leading up to the final audition the next weekend. They do that in front of a panel of people. Traditionally it was done at the Wildhorse Saloon but this year they did it at the actual stadium for friends and family.
QUESTION: What is a typical Sunday like for you, if the Titans are playing at home?
ANSWER: I wake up at 5:30. We get to the stadium typically four hours before kickoff so I get there about 7:30 or 7:45. Then we do a full game-day run through, so we run through the routines we perform, any sidelines our coach thinks we need to run through, and then the flags.
After that, we go in and have a team meeting and team prayer, and then we have hair and makeup. So luckily I don’t have to do my own hair and make-up, they have a bunch of people who do that. I typically get my make-up done first because I have a particular girl that I really like so I rush to her as fast as I can. Then I get my hair done and then probably I have about 15-20 minutes before I have pre-game obligations.
Some of us will go out to tailgating, some of us will go out to the different entrances, some of us will go up to the suites, or talk with sponsors. Two games ago we had a Make-A-Wish (recipient) and I got to do that. It was pretty cool because he actually had an “eye-gaze” device, so I felt like I could really communicate with his parents and even communicate with him on another level than some of the other cheerleaders could because that’s something we work on with in our field (in speech language pathology). (Note: An eye-gaze device allows non-verbal students to communicate with their eyes). Then we have kickoff, so I tumble out every game with T-Rac.
During the game, we rotate corners every quarter. During half-time, we get about five minutes for a break, and then we go out and finish the game.
By the time we’re done, we’ve been there about 8-10 hours. So it’s a pretty long day. We’re typically one of the last people to leave and first people to get there. If we win, we stay there even longer because we do something called the “Hater Dance,” and we dance, until basically, the stands are clear.
QUESTION: What do you do on Sunday that the Titans are on away games?
ANSWER: I sleep. We have had some Titans watch-parties and we will be there for the fans, but typically, we don’t have responsibilities on those days and so I use that time to rest.
QUESTION: How long have you been with us and what schools do you serve?
ANSWER: Three years. I have quite a few schools this year. John Colemon then I’m at Rocky Fork Middle and then I have Stewarts Creek High School. I had Stewarts Creek last year and I’m also their competition cheer coach. On top of working and the Titans, I also coach. I know, I don’t have a life (she said laughingly).
QUESTION: Why did you become a speech language pathologist?
ANSWER: That — with why I also wanted to be a Titans cheerleader — kind of correlates.
Back in 2012, I was Miss Johnson City and I did a lot appearances with the (Veterans Administration hospital) at the time. That was my personal platform, raising better veterans awareness and working with them.
Actually, the gentleman who would tour me through the hospital and the nursing home was the speech pathologist there. And I just saw the relationship he had with his patients, and I thought, “Wow, that’s something I really want to be a part of.”
So he kind of pushed me in that direction because formerly I was a graphic design major. So I sat behind a desk, worked on art, and for me, that wasn’t very fulfilling. I didn’t feel like I was really making a difference.
I felt like speech pathology was something God had pushed toward me and I was in that situation for a reason. So I felt a real calling. Also when I was Miss Johnson City, I had an appearance with the Titans Caravan that travels the state and T-Rac was there and a couple of the football players. They were there doing community service in the community and their cheerleaders also did a lot with veterans.
Note: Ketron isn’t the only Rutherford County Schools’ employee on the Tennessee Titans Cheerleader squad. Zephanie Dykes, an attendance secretary at Riverdale High School, is also on the team.
PHOTO / JAMES EVANS
RCS speech language pathologist Emily Ketron poses with the other SLPS with Rutherford County Schools during a recent in-service training.