The NFL may be full of new sights and sounds for former Hokies that make the jump to the league, but one aspect is becoming increasingly familiar: the cheerleaders.
In fact, five Virginia Tech alumni are currently on the cheerleading squad for the Baltimore Ravens after cheering for the Hokies. Jane B., Amanda D., Abby E., Dana F., who asked to have their last names withheld for privacy purposes, and Jim Schwille all have spent the past several seasons with the team.
“It’s such a huge rush to run out on the field for a game, and it’s really similar to big games at Tech,” Jane said. “It’s great to all be together and share the same alma mater.”
The Ravens represent a particularly unique situation, as they are the only co-ed squad in the league, and Schwille welcomes the opportunity to continue his cheerleading career.
“I get to watch whole games on the field, five feet from the guys making the plays,” Schwille said. “It’s a really incredible experience.”
Schwille has worked with the Ravens for four years now, in addition to his slightly less glamorous position as a lumber salesman for United Forest Products. He began his cheerleading career during his years at Virginia Tech, and even served with Virginia’s National Guard in Afghanistan after graduating.
“At Tech, I had a couple friends who were cheerleaders, but I was a cadet at the time,” he said. “Eventually, it came down to whether I wanted to sit in the stands for every game or be on the field with the girls.”
His career with the Ravens began in 2008, but he hardly planned this move to the NFL.
“Jane was going to try out for the Ravens and asked me to come along and help her,” Schwille said. “Once we got there, I realized that I had the ability to make the team, and we ended up both making the squad.”
Jane agrees that their tryout was indeed serendipitous.
“We were cheering partners at school, so I asked Jim for help practicing, and we both made the team on our first try,” she said. “It was amazing, considering that it takes most people three or four attempts to make it.”
Schwille does hail from Maryland, but the transition to supporting the team was still an unusual one.
“Most of my family was from Pittsburgh, so I wasn’t exactly attached to the team,” he said. “But the fans are so passionate, it’s hard not be invested, especially when, if the team goes to the Super Bowl, I get to go with them.”
The presence of men like Schwille on the team has made the squad especially distinctive in its style.
“The guys are really the muscle behind it all,” Jane said. “They really allow us to be so much more acrobatic.”
The men are also an important part of the team’s camaraderie.