After more than a decade of indoor football games, Moose knows darn near everyone at Ralston Arena.
As Kris Orr — Moose's name on every other day but game day — made his way through the tunnels under the seats and through the concourse above them Saturday, he interacted with all who passed by during pregame preparation. From Prime Dancers with programs and pom-poms, waiting motorcyclists, football personnel and familiar fans, almost everyone knew Rump Roaster Moose.
“Sixteen years ago was my first game against the Tri-City Diesel,” he said. “The next year, I tried out for the Rump Roasters and I’ve been with them 15-straight years.”
Orr and his wife bid on their first Omaha Beef tickets at a benefit. The bid changed his future, one filled with cheer, dance and community service.
The Rump Roasters — the Beef's memorable all-male cheer squad of super-fans — take part in diaper drives and hospital visits on top of their game day duties.
“The biggest moment, what I enjoy, is having the little kids coming up, getting autographs and talking to you after the game,” Orr said.
At Beef games, the indoor football is the focus, but the Prime Dancers and Rump Roasters up the ante. They're the faces, unobscured by helmets and facemasks, the fans remember. They're the ones that try to make football fun, no matter the score.
Four dancers with Blair ties — Denae Schindler, Cashell (Montez) Shonka, Joe “Opie” Leonard and Orr — go hard to work every home game.
Schindler, a Prime Dancer, loves being apart of the Beef's pregame introductions.
The lights go dark, motorcycles drive onto the 50-yard turf field and the players are introduced. The former Blair High School dance team member said she has another dancer from her hometown to thank for showing her that joining the Beef was a possibility.
Shonka joined the squad 12 years ago.
“I was dancing for Dana College, and we had our offseason and I wasn't ready to quit yet,” she said. “So I decided to try-out. It was 2007.”
Shonka took a brief Beef hiatus to dance for the short-lived Omaha Nighthawks of the now-defunct United Football League, but she's been a staple of the dance squad for nearly as long as Orr has been with the Roasters.
The Blair dancers were all on the field for introductions before Saturday's Beef game against the Salina, Kan., Liberty. The Omaha squad jumped out to a 13-7 first-quarter advantage on two Derrick Bernard touchdown runs.
The Liberty, however, took control with a 27-14 second quarter. Bernard scored on a Beef sneak and tossed a touchdown pass to Donovan Raspberry, but Salina led 34-27 at halftime.
During first half breaks, Leonard came back out onto the field for every promotion to keep the fans entertained. The Blair Volunteer Fire Department chief carried out a cardboard cutout with a football-sized hole in it and an inflatable kicking tee for the events. He even escorted a fellow Rump Roaster with a T-shirt gun around the field.
“I actually got started because of Moose,” Leonard said. “He's been actually trying to get me since way back when.”
After much prodding, he's in his fourth year with the team.
Before both the Beef and Liberty emptied out of the locker rooms back onto the field, the Prime Dancers and Rump Roasters took center stage — sort of — during halftime.
Earlier in the day, both dance teams hosted their kids clinics, getting a host of youngsters — the real spotlight-stealers — ready to dance with them during halftime. Leonard's daughter, Samantha, even took part with her father recording the dance on his cellphone.
Shonka said its a fun day at Ralston Arena teaching the kids.
“It’s an easy job for us, but its also hard at the same time being a role model,” she said. The Prime veteran said the young girls look up to them, but the dance squad is happy to take on the responsibility.
“A lot of them, they might not even dance,” Schindler said. “So, this is their new outlet to experience it and, possibly, go on and continue with it.”
“Most men wouldn’t say they enjoy the dancing, but we have fun when we do the dancing,” Leonard added. “Whether we mess it up or not, it’s fun. We just laugh about it and enjoy ourself.”
Once they had performed, the two indoor football teams returned to the field, where the Liberty finished the job. As the Omaha turnovers added up, the Kansas squad took leads as large as 50-27.
Beef runner Calvin Phillips added a late touchdown run, but Salina earned the win — and a Champions Indoor Football division title — 50-33.
That's when Orr's favorite part took place. Players, Prime Dancers and Rump Roasters met Beef fans on the field in the postgame.
“I’m a people person,” Leonard said before the game. “I love to get out and meet new people and see old faces.”
“I’ve seen some of the same faces for 12 years,” Shonka said.
In indoor football, the players change with the seasons. The Prime Dancers and Rump Roasters, especially their Blair members, though, are ingrained in the fabric of the Omaha Beef team.
“I just enjoy it,” Leonard said, listing his favorite parts. Camaraderie with the fans — and behind the scenes — were among the best aspects.