Considering that only one team in the National Football League includes men on its cheerleading squad, it’s rare enough to find a male cheerleader these days. Finding a cheerleader who is a military veteran with a full-time job as a lumber salesman, however, is virtually unheard of.

Jim Schwille (’06 B.S. in wood science and forest products) has been on the Baltimore Ravens’ cheerleading squad for four years, in addition to his slightly less glamorous position as account manager for Universal Forest Products in Ranson, W.Va. He also served with Virginia’s National Guard in Afghanistan after graduation.

Though athletically active in high school, Schwille’s path to cheerleading during his years at Virginia Tech still came as a bit of surprise. “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 path to becoming a wood science major was similarly unplanned. “I didn’t start off as a wood science major, but I started taking some classes in it because they were due to finish up before I was scheduled to be deployed,” he said. “I ended up enjoying them so much that I switched into the major.”

Although the change in focus might have been unintentional, Schwille credits his education as being a crucial part of his professional success. “I was the first Virginia Tech student from my major ever hired by Universal Forest Products,” he remarked. “They normally hire business majors and have to teach them about wood, but I already had the background in it, which makes it really easy to talk to my customers.”

Client support is a major part of Schwille’s job, requiring him to drive as many as 5,000 miles a month in parts of Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. “I spend a lot of time knocking on doors and trying to get to the people who make the decisions,” he said. His clients cover everything from making windmills to cranes, so he needs to be familiar with a full range of wood products.

Schwille was focused primarily on his career when the opportunity to cheer for the Ravens came along. “One of the girls I cheered with at Virginia Tech was going to try out and asked me to come along and help her,” he recalled. “Once we got there, I realized that I had the ability to make the team, and we both ended up making the squad.”

Balancing the demands of two jobs may seem challenging, but Schwille insists he’s enjoying every minute of both experiences. “In my day job, I get to talk to people all day and help them solve problems,” he commented. “With the Ravens, I get to watch whole games on the field, five feet from the guys making the plays. It’s a really incredible experience.”