There were tears of joy from Azari Ford when she found out her teammates selected her as the 2024 Eagles Pro Bowl Cheerleader.
"I was in disbelief," Ford said. "I started crying because it was just a really amazing experience."
On Tuesday, December 26, members of the Eagles Cheerleaders gave speeches in front of the whole squad who then voted to send one candidate to the Pro Bowl.
Ford was selected by her peers to represent the team and organization at the 2024 Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida on February 4.
"It is one of the highest honors you can get as a cheerleader," Ford said. "Being able to do this as my last hurrah is unimaginable."
"Azari was selected by her teammates for this prestigious accolade, which is a testament to the outstanding leadership she exhibits as a team captain and the respect she has earned through her dedication, tireless work ethic, tremendous talent, and her natural ability to galvanize camaraderie within the squad," said Barbara Zaun, Director of the Eagles Entertainment Teams. "She brings positivity to everyone she meets and will undoubtedly shine during Pro Bowl week."
In her speech, Ford focused on how she loves being a brand ambassador for the Eagles and giving back to her community. She also talked about her love for dance and her passion for the team and her teammates.
The first-year captain is in her sixth and final season with the squad. Ford became an Eagles Cheerleader at age 18, the youngest one can be to join the squad after graduating high school. In her first four years with the team, Ford attended the University of the Arts, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance with a minor in business.
"The Eagles transformed me into the woman I am today and I'm forever grateful for that," Ford said. "I eat, sleep, and breathe dance, and express myself through that, so the Eagles have given me the space to do that."
"Over the past six years, Azari has been an exemplary representative for the Eagles organization," Zaun added. "As a global brand ambassador, she has championed important causes and utilized the compelling platform she has as an Eagles Cheerleader to make a positive impact in the lives of others. She is very deserving of the Pro Bowl Cheerleader honor."
Having a great work ethic, being determined, and staying positive have allowed Ford to do what she loves with the Eagles for six years, the most amount of time a cheerleader can be a part of the team.
The 2021-22 Eagles Cheerleader Performer of the Year also credited her small-town upbringing in Phillipsburg, New Jersey as to why she has the drive to do what she does.
"No matter where you come from or who you are, you can be anything that you want to be," Ford said. "To be able to continue becoming an Eagles Cheerleader every year is really inspiring to my town."
A few weeks ago, at an event at the Firth Youth Center in Phillipsburg, Ford spoke with the town's youth, telling them about her journey and showing them that "dreams do come true."
Ford is continually giving back to her community, whether that is in her hometown or Philadelphia. Her love for service is thanks to watching and helping her mom give back when she was younger.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford returned to teach at the dance studio she grew up going to, 5-6-7-8 Dance. She is currently one of the studio's competition choreographers.
In the past, Ford has collected and donated prom dresses to students and did crafts with senior citizens at local care centers. She also is an active participant in MERCK for Mothers, a global initiative that works to promote safe, high-quality, equitable, and respectful maternity care for people everywhere.
Outside of her role at 5-6-7-8 Dance, Ford is a youth mentor.
"I really want to make a difference in this world and always bring something positive," Ford said. "I want to provide that encouragement and guidance for those who don't seek that."
During her six years with the squad, Ford has made many memories, but her fondest one was participating in the Inspire Change event at Super Bowl LVII. Inspire Change is the NFL's year-round social justice initiative. During the event, Ford and others handed out laptops to children.
"Being able to bring that sense of community somewhere else, not only in Philly, was just another amazing thing," Ford said.
Ford capped off her last regular-season home game as an Eagles Cheerleader by being honored as the 2024 Pro Bowl Cheerleader in front of all the fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
Her family was there to witness the special moment, something Ford will never forget.
"That feeling was nothing less than pure joy and happiness, you can't put a price tag on that," Ford said. "I would never have gotten where I am today if it wasn't for the support of my family, friends, coaches, and teammates."