Centennial High School graduate Chelsey Davis is Peoria’s favorite daughter and the feeling is mutual.
The ABC 15 Smart Shopper and morning traffic anchor frequently returns to her hometown to promote events and to tell students the sky’s the limit.
“I actually just went back not too long ago because they were recognizing their student council at a banquet,” said Davis, a former Cardinals cheerleader. “I got to speak there and encourage the kids to continue leading and to see how far they’ll go with whatever they want to achieve.”
Centennial’s one-time homecoming queen also returned to lead the event’s parade four years after she graduated.
“It was perfect because, at the time, I was working at another station in town (Channel 5) and we brought our chopper over,” Davis said. “We were doing a live feed back at our station. All the viewers felt like they were part of this great, cool and fun event.”
Finding her place
Davis is a second-generation Arizonan; the daughter of Ralph Davis, a country radio DJ known as Eddie Haskell.
“Growing up, me and my brothers would go in and talk on the mic,” she said. “I think he probably got in trouble for it, but we loved it. We’re a very creative and theatrical family.”
Davis was meant to follow her father’s path and be in the public eye. At Oasis Elementary School, Davis led the morning announcements.
“Every day I would make the like an SNL skit,” Davis said. “I would do really silly things for people’s birthdays, or if it was the Fourth of July we would dress up. I didn’t really focus on that because I was so involved in extracurricular activities like cheer, track and basketball.”
She served as student council president at Oasis and Centennial. Davis’ freshman year, she was faced with death. During a March Madness spirit week her freshman year, she broke her neck in a tumbling session.
“It was ‘Pirate Day,’” she said. “I’ll never forget because when I was on the stretcher, freshly out of the ambulance, people thought I was in a car accident. My face wasn’t bruised, though. It was just the heavy black eyeliner that had streamed down my face.”
Davis looked on the bright side. She wore a blinged-out neck brace for three months. Her classmates carried her books, and by her senior year she earned a solo spot in a dance concert.
“I had a fellow student speak a poem I wrote about changing the world and I planned to dance to just the sound of his voice and the words,” she recalled.
“All day at school, I had severe back pains that only got worse. I couldn’t practice for the dance concert. I could barely speak to the student council members who came over to shoot a commercial for the morning announcements. I burst into tears.”
Davis’ parents rushed her to the emergency ward. Eventually, it was found she had a pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot, in her lung.
“The first three days I was there, I was just a shell or a ghost of myself,” she said. “I remember telling my parents I was going to die. But on the third night, I saw a silhouette of who I believe was Jesus at the end of my bed. Although I initially thought my headline would read, ‘Girl who has the world loses it all,’ I felt as though I was initially faced with a choice.
“I was then assured I had a greater purpose to fulfil. After that, it felt like a miracle. The next day, I could start to walk on my own, talk, eat, yawn, laugh. I was able to have my parents take me to the dance concert in a wheelchair when I was released from the hospital. The performance dancers were doing a number to ‘Thriller,’ and I remember being just as pale as the white makeup they had all over their face. I nearly cried watching because I was just so grateful to be there, and for the first time, my cheeks were flushed. Being there and even just watching dancing was bringing me back to life.”
The second semester, she auditioned for the Arizona Cardinals cheerleading squad and made it as an 18-year-old high school senior.
“To not be paralyzed and say, ‘Hey, I can whip my hair in the NFL, that was the coolest thing for me,’” she said.
‘Let’s go Coyotes!’
At the audition for the Cardinals, she gave her name, her nickname, “Chelsey loves you,” and said she was a Centennial senior.
“In true ‘Bring It On’ fashion, I did a high kick and yelled, ‘Let’s go Coyotes!’”
Despite the error, she became a finalist and made the squad. Davis was the youngest cheerleader in the NFL that year.
“I dove into my rookie season, learning everything from putting on a show to public speaking, how to handle appearances, self-defense, hundreds of routines, practices, mandatory workouts and so much more,” she said.
“To represent the organization and don the title of Arizona Cardinals cheerleader, it was required for us to either have a full-time job or be a full-time student. I describe being an NFL cheerleader as a part-time job, but a full-time commitment. And truly, we were all embracing every single second that went into having the best seats in the house, on the sidelines next to all the action. We practiced outside in the evening hours several times a week, whether it was over 110 or around 50 degrees. I brought the phrase ‘full out or get out’ to the team, and it became our motto. We learned about mental strength as well as physical strength.”
Davis cheered from 2009 to 2014 and served as captain for two of those years. She was part of the show team, performing for troops across the nation and overseas.
“What I loved most about each experience was we had the opportunity to change and impact people’s lives,” Davis said.
“It would dawn on me regularly that I was now wearing the uniform I admired so much when I was younger. It truly was like wearing a superhero cape. When we put it on and brought the poms out, we were something much greater than ourselves. We represented hope. We got to witness and help create memorable moments for children with illnesses who overcame battles and the parents while their child was in surgery. We danced with breast cancer survivors and in honor of those who lost the fight. We were there to help welcome home loved ones and see them reunite after being deployed, and even traveled as far as Japan to put on shows and bring our troops a piece of home. In general, it was always an honor to be part of countless amazing causes.”
During her five seasons with the Cardinals, she launched social media pages for the cheerleaders, edited the music they danced to on the field and helped with events like the Big Red Rib and Music Festival.
“I cherish every moment and memory with the Arizona Cardinals because it shaped who I am today,” she said. “I learned how to be a brand ambassador, representing an organization, how to communicate, how to lead, how to be a role model, impacting lives and making a difference, how to exceed expectations, how to be completely devoted to causes and missions.
“I worked and cheered with extremely intelligent women who are successful engineers, teachers, business owners, social workers and the list goes on. When you’re constantly surrounded by greatness, you are inspired and empowered to rise and be better than the best.”
Learning to be a journalist
Upon graduation, she entered ASU as an education major, having been inspired by the teachers who educated her. Then halfway through her second semester, it dawned on her that she wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps.
“I reached out to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and basically said I wanted to transfer,” she said.
“I said I know it’s late, but I want to get caught up. I want to graduate on time. I know this is what I was meant to do. It was a tough transition because we were already mostly done with the first year.”
Just to prove a point, she attended Cronkite classes that she wasn’t enrolled in yet. She submitted assignments so school officials understood she meant business.
“Everything I learned at Cronkite helped prepare me for the real world,” she said.
“Every class, every teacher who was working in the industry and peeling back the curtain for students, and every internship added to our toolkits. We learned every position of production, the writing styles, ethics, the importance of impactful storytelling, and the thrill of a deadline. I helped launch a sports talk show called ‘Sun Devils Sports Night.’”
When she graduated ASU, she worked for CBS. Jason Kadah, a meteorologist, took her under his wing and trained her on the system.
“During a practice round of me presenting the traffic report at the green screen, he did everything he could to throw me off,” she recalled.
“One example: He would throw stacks of papers in front of the camera, and I would laugh during my hit saying, ‘Well, just like those papers, you’ll be flying down the freeways today!’ I loved every second there, that crew became family, and we are still close today.”
Her husband understands her job fully. He’s former TV reporter Brandon Hamilton, who now works in real estate. She called it love at first sight.
“He was working at a different station. When I saw him, I thought he was the most handsome man I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Months later, he reached out to me and was congratulating me on the job. He asked if I ever wanted to grab lunch and talk about this crazy business. The rest is history.”