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Friday, December 08, 2006

Here's to the Rocket Scientists! 

Posted by James at 9:34 AM ET

By Bob Lutz
Wichita Eagle
What is your stereotype of an NFL cheerleader?

Here's mine: She's really cute, well built, limber, acrobatic and perhaps not as intellectual as some others, to put it kindly.

Hey, I said it was a stereotype.

Anyway, stereotypes were made to be busted. Which is where Summer enters the picture.

She's all of those things I mentioned. And she's a rocket scientist. I'm serious.

Williams, who is from Anthony and earned a degree in aerospace engineering from Wichita State, works for Jacobs Engineering Group and is based in Houston.

Part of her job is to help NASA -- you know, the NASA that puts rockets and people into space -- with professional technical services.

That's her day job.

Her other job -- day, night, weekends -- is as a cheerleader for the NFL's Houston Texans, wearing a skimpy costume and drawing attention from the crowd. Especially the male crowd.

Summer, 25, doesn't see a contradiction in her two jobs. She does one to make a living and one to make living more fun.

She began dance lessons when she was 3 and specializes in tap, ballet and jazz.

Her background really isn't in cheerleading -- she was on the varsity squad for only one year at Chaparral High and never was on the cheerleading squad at WSU.

She tried out for the Texans' squad in 2005 after a couple of her male engineering colleagues told her about tryouts and talked her into going, promising her lunch once a week for a year if she just tried out.

So she did. And she made the squad, beating out nearly 1,300 other hopefuls.

Cheerleading is a great escape, but Summer is first and foremost an engineer.

She got hooked on space and flight when she was a freshman at Chaparral and her Earth Science instructor played the movie "Apollo 13" in class.

When it came time for college, she was awarded a scholarship by Cessna to attend WSU. She has her pilot's license and one of her goals in 2007 is to improve her instrument rating.

I don't imagine it's always easy to strike up a conversation along those lines with her cheerleading buddies, but Summer has enough interests to fit in with any crowd.

Her problem is time. There's just not enough to do everything she wants to do.

"I love cheerleading and would hate to give it up," she said. "However, I'm moving forward in my career and cheering is very time consuming. So is my career. I'm about to reach a point where I'm going to have to choose between the two."

That choice is easy. Cheerleading is fun, but it doesn't pay the bills.

"I've always placed a lot of value in education and doing something that is solid," Summer said. "And no matter where I'm working, I'm aiming straight for the top. It's amazing to work as closely as I have with NASA. I couldn't have planned a better life."

Summer has family in Wichita, Anthony and Arkansas City, so she gets back to Kansas frequently. Her boyfriend is a pilot for Raytheon.

"I have a big-city heart and I love living in Texas and being in Houston," she said. "But every time I go back to Kansas, now that I've grown up, I have such a strong appreciation for my roots. It's so nice to experience the pace of Kansas every once in a while."

But it's a slower pace than Summer is accustomed to. She's on a fast track.

A beauty, with brains.

"Given a choice, I would want both," she said. "But, honestly, I would rather have the brains. That just seems to be something that sticks around a little bit longer."

She remembers an epiphany almost three years ago. She had recently started working for Jacobs and saw herself in a rest room mirror.

"Growing up," she said, "I didn't ever feel gorgeous, like I could go out and be a model. But that day, it was the first time I felt like a beautiful woman, knowing that I had done this on my own, created a life for myself. I was 22 and I felt like it had all come together."

What's your NFL cheerleader stereotype now?

Summer, Houston Texans Cheerleader
Summer at HoustonTexans.com