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Dec. 16, 2022

Faculty member returns to football field to celebrate experience as Chiefs cheerleader

A Northwest Missouri State University faculty member recently stepped away from the classroom and returned to an NFL football field to help the Kansas City Chiefs commemorate the 60th anniversary of the team’s cheerleading squad.

Dr. Tina Gaa Pulley, a Northwest alumna who joined the University faculty this fall as an assistant professor of health and physical education, was one of more than 300 Chiefs cheerleading alumni who participated in a special halftime performance Nov. 27 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Pulley was a Chiefs cheerleader during the 2005 season and a staff member with the cheerleading team for a few years afterward.

“It was just as magical as it was during that time, but to be able to relive that experience was pretty cool,” she said.

Dr. Tina Pulley, an assistant professor of health and physical education at Northwest, joined Chiefs cheerleading alumni for a special halftime performance Nov. 27 at Arrowhead Stadium. (Submitted photos)

Dr. Tina Pulley, an assistant professor of health and physical education at Northwest, joined Chiefs cheerleading alumni for a special halftime performance Nov. 27 at Arrowhead Stadium. (Submitted photos)

A Maryville native, Pulley grew up watching her mother operate a dance studio in the city. “Before I could walk, I was on her hip, teaching dances,” she said. “So it was just something that I always knew I wanted to do.”

At the college level, Pulley wanted to continue dancing with a nationally competitive team and chose Northwest, where she joined the Bearcat Steppers. During her first year with the team, the Steppers qualified for national competition.

Reflecting on her time as a Northwest student, Pulley says her coursework prepared her well for the career field. She took advantage of opportunities to work with faculty – from developing health and wellness programs to assisting with the planning and relocation of the University’s fitness center – and served as president of the Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Club.

“The professors on campus were incredible to allow me to develop and create programs with them and to get so much practical, hands-on experience,” Pulley said. “One reason why I am so happy to be back here is to be able to help create those situations for my students.”

Pulley graduated from Northwest in 1993 with her bachelor’s degree in recreation with an emphasis in corporate fitness and began her career as a corporate wellness director in Tampa Bay. Once there, she auditioned for and made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleading team, marking her first stint with an NFL dance team.

Although, Pulley didn’t think she wanted to teach at that time, she soon found her career heading in that direction. After earning a master’s degree in health education at Idaho State University, she launched a business of her own, creating health promotion programs for companies, churches and communities. She began writing curriculum to help schools develop exercise science programs and kinesiology programs, and she became a certification examiner with the Athletics and Fitness Association of America.

Then, in 2017, Pulley joined Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, as the director of its student wellness program and an adjunct instructor. During that time, she also completed a master’s degree in kinesiology and sport psychology and a doctorate degree in health professions from A.T. Still University.

With aspirations to teach at a four-year institution, Pulley learned of the opening for a faculty role in Northwest’s School of Health Science and Wellness last summer.

“I still am a Bearcat, I still bleed green and I come up here all the time because my family’s here, so it still feels like home,” she said. “I was always searching for someplace close by that I could start at, and I didn’t realize it would happen so fast.”

Tina Pulley is pictured on the field at Arrowhead Stadium.

Tina Pulley is pictured on the field at Arrowhead Stadium.

Plans for her return to Arrowhead Stadium and the performance with Chiefs cheerleaders began to solidify in October when the team distributed a video with the dance steps to cheerleading alumni. On the eve of the Nov. 27 football game, the performers gathered for a rehearsal at the Chiefs practice field, in addition to receiving a tour of Arrowhead Stadium and attending a social event.

The alumni, who represented all decades since the 1960s, wore specially made Chiefs jerseys that included numbers representing each dancer’s rookie year with the cheerleading team. During the performance, alumni groups from each decade danced to music from their respective eras. Their presentation culminated with all of the cheerleaders – who covered the entire football field at that point – dancing to a mix of “We Are Family.”

With the opportunity to step onto an NFL field again, Pulley said she tried to stay in the moment and take in all of it. She and the other cheerleaders took notice of how many people remained in their seats to watch the halftime performance and gratefully absorbed the stadium crowd’s appreciation when it ended.

“We were like, is (Chiefs quarterback Patrick) Mahomes on the field somewhere?” Pulley said with laughter. “They were screaming, just going wild. We were walking off and everyone wanted to do high fives. You just forget that kind of stuff. It was a magical, beautiful experience.”


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215