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WVU engineering student transforms lost wager into unexpected passion

Lionell Marshall carrying the "W" flag on the field at Mylan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.

Lionel Marshall joined the WVUcheerleading squadin January, 2017, after losing a bet to a friend.

When Lionel Marshall came to West Virginia University to study at the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, he never dreamed that he would one day become a cheerleader for the school. However, when a fellow student and member of the cheerleading squad challenged him to a bet that would result in him joining the team if he lost, he simply couldn’t refuse the challenge.


While studying for an exam with a friend, Marshall, an industrial engineering student and native of Mandeville, Jamaica, made a bet that he would try out for the cheerleading squad if he received a lower score on the test than his study buddy.

“If he got the higher grade, I would have to join the cheerleading squad, and if I won he would have to make me breakfast once a week for the rest of the semester,” said Marshall. “As you can tell, he received a higher grade.”

Without hesitation, Marshall stayed true to his word and tried out for the squad in January 2017. Despite being entirely new to the sport, he was selected as a member of the Blue Team, which covers women’s basketball. Marshall excelled at the sport and was quickly promoted to the Gold Team, which covers WVU football and men’s basketball.

"My first time cheering was absolutely amazing,” said Marshall. “My adrenaline was through the roof and I was so pumped for WVU to get their first home football win of the season. Everyone understood that I was completely new at the sport and they brought me in with open arms. My only regret is that I didn’t join sooner.”

For many students, participating in collegiate sports while studying engineering could prove to be too challenging but Marshall is no stranger to balancing a busy schedule.

In addition to cheerleading, Marshall is also a member of WVU’s Student Events Board, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Institute of industrial and Systems Engineers. He is also an active member of the United States Marine Corps in the Bravo Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Infantry Battalion, based out of Frederick, Maryland.

“I thought juggling both engineering and cheerleading would be difficult, but it is not as bad as I thought it would be,” said Marshall. “The hardest part is staying focused on school work when you know it is game day, or when you know there is a big game coming up. I have definitely had to adjust my time management skills while being involved in so many different organizations.”

Although it has been challenging to juggle such a vigorous academic and social schedule, Marshall believes that joining the cheerleading squad has given him a special set of skills that will help him reach his goal of becoming a successful engineer.

“I chose engineering because I wanted to work in field that would allow me to make a positive contribution to society,” said Marshall. “Being a member of the cheerleading team has helped me develop communication, networking and team building skills that will help me later in my career. When I walk into a practice or game I strive to bring positive energy with me. My goal is to bring that same spark into my workplace.”

Marshall will complete his degree this May and although he has already secured a job as a project engineer at Jacobs Engineering in Arlington, Virginia, he says his cheerleading days are far from over.

“Being on the cheerleading squad at WVU has been a life-changing experience,” said Marshall. “WVU does something to you that I don’t think most schools do, which is bring everyone together as a family. My goal is to continue to learn the aspects and techniques of cheerleading to keep myself in shape and possibly come back to coach one day.”



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