FOXBOROUGH, Mass.--There is little question that the New England Patriots have left fans plenty to cheer about so far this season. But if you just head 10 yards off the field to the Gillette Stadium sidelines there is one more reason to cheer.
Karen Link is a 23-year-old Patriots cheerleader from Terryville, Conn., and whatever team you root for, there is reason to cheer on Karen.
In 2007, on the way to taking her SATs as a high school senior at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, Karen’s life came to a screeching halt--a car accident left her with a broken spine. “I knew I could not walk and I shouldn't even try,” Link said. “There was a baseball sized lump on my spine and that was a sure sign of a broken vertebrae.”
Link underwent spinal fusion surgery and doctors told her she would never run or dance again as well as she had during her high school years.
Years of rehab followed, but through her college years Link found her rhythm once again by starting to work out, dance and by trying to regain the strength she once possessed. “I don’t do well with limitations,” Link said.
This year, without telling anyone, Link decided to go for the ultimate fourth and long shot and try out to be a Patriots cheerleader. About 320 women auditioned for the squad, and, after the final cuts, 11 new women were named to the team. “My mom actually called me, she saw [the roster] on line,” Link said. “I was just in disbelief that it actually happened!”
Tracy Sormanti, the director of the New England Patriots cheerleaders, said of Link, “I see courage, determination and discipline, it just makes her more beautiful than she already is.”
Lauren Schneider, another rookie Pats cheerleader added, “It’s inspiring to anyone who has had any setback or injuries in life to just keep going.”
As the Patriots drive toward yet another playoff bid, Link says to watch for her on the sidelines “To look behind me and see Gillette Stadium is absolutely crazy, good crazy.”