Leigh Killian is successfully pursuing both of her dream careers as a Bucs Cheerleader and a probation officer
Think cheerleading for an NFL team and working as a probation officer is a strange and interesting combination? So does Conan O'Brien, who will introduce Buccaneers Cheerleader Leigh Killian to the world Thursday night
You may recognize Leigh Killian as one of the famous Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders. She's a team captain, in fact, a sixth-year veteran who leads a group of talented women through their routines on the sideline each Sunday.
If you happen to break the law, you may cross paths with Killian in a slightly different situation. As a probation officer, she just might pay you a routine visit after you've served your time.
Either way, she is likely to be a lot more recognizable by Friday morning. On Thursday night, Killian will appear as a guest on the NBC talk show Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
This stunning development for one of the Buccaneers' most impressive cheerleaders is the direct result of her uncommon combination of roles. Tampa Bay's squad is filled with career-minded professionals and hard-working students, but few bring together such disparate worlds as Killian.
For that reason, she was featured on the HBO NFL highlight show Inside the NFL following the Buccaneers' Week 17 game against Carolina, and that spiked the interest of the hugely popular Conan O'Brien program. As a result, Killian is off to New York for Thursday night's taping. It's a whirlwind of a development for this pursuer of two passions, especially because the whole thing seems so natural to her.
"It's basically just who I am," Killian said. "I love the law, and I love cheerleading, so it's just two things that I love to do. It just happens to be a strange combination. You don't see it very often."
After earning her degree in criminal justice at Appalachian State University, Killian moved to the Tampa area and made the Bucs' squad in 2000. After five years on the team, including the 2005 season in which she was chosen to represent the Bucs Cheerleaders at the Pro Bowl, Killian took a break for two years to attend the police academy and begin her career.
"When I got out of college, I did an internship with the department of corrections, and eventually when they were hiring, that's when I got the job," Killian said. "I've been doing it for about three years now."
Killian is in charge of about 60 violent offenders who have been convicted of a felony, paying them regular visits to ensure they are on the road to returning to law-abiding members of society.
Her true dream, however, is to become an FBI agent. After seeing Jodie Foster's portrayal of FBI agent Clarice Starling in the Oscar-winning 1991 film, "The Silence of the Lambs," Killian was hooked.
"I've wanted to be in the FBI for a long time now," Killian said. "'Silence of the Lambs' is actually what got me interested in the FBI, and it's definitely something that's in my vision. I'm trying to work towards that."
Though her career was progressing nicely, Killian's love of cheering never faded, and before the 2007 season she decided to make a comeback effort.
"It was hard to come back, because you're out of it for two years and every year the girls get better and more beautiful and younger," Killian said. "You have to step it up just that much to make it back on the team after you had already been on it and not done it for two years."
But Killian made the squad and was welcomed by her teammates, many of whom remembered why she had left them in the first place.
"Everyone found it really interesting that I was a probation officer, but they had heard about it," Killian said. "They knew when I left in 2005 that I was going for that reason. I had to go to Tallahassee for about six months for the police academy."
As a cheerleader, Killian works all the Bucs home games, rehearses twice a week, and attends numerous charitable and corporate events throughout the year. She visited members of the U.S. military in 2001 during the squad's military tour through Egypt, Turkey and Uzbekistan, and last summer visited troops stationed in Hawaii.
Killian understands that her double life as a probation officer and a cheerleader might strike some as an odd mix – a fact confirmed when the Conan O'Brien show called – but she enjoys the chance to disprove any preconceived notions people might have about cheerleaders.
"I love to knock down any stereotypes," Killian continued. "A lot of people think we just show up and shake pom-pons and that's about it. They think we don't know anything about football, that we're just there to look pretty. But it's so much more than that. [Cheerleading Coordinator] Sandy [Charboneau] always picks well-rounded, beautiful, talented, educated, career-oriented women. We are very proud when we do break the stereotypes that people see."
Killian will reach a rather large audience with that message on Thursday. In addition to her appearance on late-night TV, she will also be a guest on the "First Take" show on ESPN2 at approximately 11:30 a.m. ET. She will also reach the radio audience in the afternoon when she appears on Maxim Radio on channel 108 of Sirius Satellite Radio at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Despite the recent interest in her unusual career combination, Killian said she simply feels blessed to be able to do the two things she loves.
"I definitely enjoy cheering," said Killian. "It's my passion. It's something that is fun to do. Law is my job, but it's also something I'm passionate about, so I enjoy doing both. I get the best of both worlds."