St. Clairsville grad to cheer at Cotton Bowl
Alexi Kindler is preparing for a very busy couple of weeks.
The 2020 St. Clairsville High School graduate and current University of Cincinnati cheerleader wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kindler will be on the sideline this afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington to cheer on the Bearcats, who will play Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Cotton Bowl. A victory means one more football game on Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the CFP Championship, and then Kindler and her fellow UC competition squad members will head to Orlando for the national championships.
“Being a Division I cheerleader was always one of my goals and lifelong dreams,” Kindler said. “Becoming a University of Cincinnati cheerleader has truly been unforgettable, and the experiences that have come with it are ones I will cherish forever. I’m doing the sport I love surrounded by extremely supportive coaches and encouraging teammates.”
In what’s been a season of “once-in-a-lifetime moments” for both the Cincinnati football team and cheering squad, Kindler is still having trouble fully wrapping her head around the fact that she’ll be cheering during a CFP game.
“When I was younger, I always dreamed of cheering at a huge football game in a packed stadium, so it’s crazy to think that the dream is about to come true,” Kindler said.
today’s game will be the biggest game, thus far, it’s by no means the first “big” game at which Kindler has cheered. She was among the select group to make the trip to Notre Dame for the Bearcats victory against the Fighting Irish, which actually proved to be the win that sealed the deal for Cincinnati to become the first Group of Five school to play in the CFP.
Kindler also made the travel squad for games at Indiana, Navy and East Carolina.
“It was so awesome to see UC fans in red and black, overpowering all of the away stadiums,” Kindler said. “I got chills as our fans chanted our cheer, ‘let’s go Bearcats,’ louder than the opposing fans during the Notre Dame game.”
As the Bearcats continued to pile up the wins, with that success came more and more national acclaim. For instance, ESPN’s College GameDay show made its first stop at UC on Nov. 6 for the game against Tulsa.
The Bearcats also hosted the American Athletic Conference championship game, which they won 35-20 over Houston, for the first time in school history.
“This season has been filled with so many memories that I will never forget,” Kindler said. “We’ve been making history throughout the season. The journey has been absolutely incredible and breathtaking.”
The cheerleaders were there every step of the way, too. On top of being on the sidelines and making appearances at College GameDay, the Bearcat cheerleaders were featured on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Even with a 13-0 record, the AAC championship and the coveted win against Notre Dame, there were still nerves on the morning of Dec. 2 before the CFP committee formally announced the pairings.
“We were all on the edge of our seats,” Kindler said. “With many (fans) chanting, ‘overrated’ or saying we didn’t deserve a playoff spot, the entire Bearcat community was filled with nerves, excitement and eagerness. When the (pairings) were announced, I nearly cried, jumped for joy and was just so proud to be a Bearcat student-athlete. We’re finally presented with a chance to prove to the world what Cincinnati is all about.”
The Cincinnati cheerleaders traveled to the Dallas area Wednesday and were met with a full schedule, including multiple events and appearances coinciding with the game.
With the team’s success and changes to NCAA rules, many UC athletes have been able to capitalize on their status as a Bearcat.
Kindler, for instance, has also been able to develop her “brand” by taking advantage of the newly implemented Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules that allow collegiate student-athletes to capitalize on their fame monetarily.
She signed a deal with Opendorse for the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway.
“By representing as a chosen cheerleader from the AAC and the University of Cincinnati, I helped to promote this awesome Dr. Pepper-sponsored opportunity,” Kindler said.
According to Kindler, the giveaway also involved Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder, who “coached” students for the Halftime Tuition Toss that was done during basically all of the conference championship games.
“I was so blessed for this awesome opportunity, and I am excited to partake in others in the future,” Kindler said.
Kindler’s parents – John and Lisa – won’t be making the trip to Texas, but they will be watching and rooting on the Bearcats with a party of family and friends in St. Clairsville.
“My family will be cheering loudly and proudly from the Ohio Valley,” Kindler said.
Along with cheering for football and the respective competition squads, Kindler, who is majoring in occupational therapy, also cheers at men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball games.