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Married Life… to a Linebacker at Penn State

Being married in college at the young age of 21 is not your typical college experience, let alone being married to a division one football player. It is something that has always set us apart from the moment we said “I do,” with only a handful of others across the country. Although wearing the title of a “football wife” in college has had its unique set of challenges and blessings, walking through it all with Brandon has been the greatest honor.

Brandon and I first met and began dating when we were in high school, back when he had a lot less muscle and I had a major case of senioritis. Yes, I was that senior girl crushing on the sophomore football star. Our early days of dating were filled with lots of awkward moments, hand-written notes back and forth, and lots and lots of Dunkin Donuts coffee dates. We grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania, and moving to a large college town that revolves around football has been such a change. We have had to learn how to embrace this season of life we are in, while always remaining true to ourselves and our values, keeping our faith and our marriage our main focus.

Up until last season, my husband had seen very little playing time. Due to a series of unfortunate injuries that struck some of the other starting linebackers, my husband was finally given a chance to fill in for them on the field and ended up doing incredible. He went from not being known at all to an overnight media storm following the game the next day. This past year, my husband and our story have been shared across the nation in magazines, newspapers, and sports blogs. My husband has been featured on TV specials, ESPN, and even in Sports Illustrated. I must confess that I still blush seeing his face on TV! It’s still funny to me to see him in the spotlight, sharing his life with so many others, because at the end of the day he’s still just my husband; the same guy I wake up and fall asleep next to every night.

He went from not being known at all to an overnight media storm following the game…

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While most people would assume this type of spotlight feels glamorous, there is so much that goes unseen. The media has a certain way of portraying athletes (and their wives), when in reality our lives and marriage are nothing like that. In fact, I was extremely naive to what the life of an athlete looks like until I was married to one.

Most days my husband leaves around 7:30am and doesn’t come home until around 8:30pm. His weekends consist of staying with the team Friday night, a football game each Saturday, and practice again on Sunday. Playing football at a D-1 level means a seven day a week, 365 day a year commitment. And on top of that, people forget that unlike professional athletes, they are also full-time students as well, having all the responsibilities of homework, studying, and projects just like any other student. Between the craziness of football and school, the one person who is constantly having to let go and give up time with him is me.

To me, being a football wife is not at all about the spotlight, but definitely about the grit and a whole lot of grace. It means eating dinner alone every night when he is required to eat with the team, and taking on all the household responsibilities. It’s driving 25 hours in one weekend to watch an away game. Some nights it means only spending 20 minutes together before he must study for a test. It’s not being able to go on summer vacation or travel over winter break. It’s feeling invisible in public when people only seem to care about Brandon and football. Most of all, it’s full of constant sacrifices and compromises.

If there is one thing that this journey has taught me, it’s that you are constantly making a choice to put him first and to be flexible. It would be easy to keep a record of the sacrifices and personal dreams I have had to put on hold in order to allow him to pursue this dream. One of the biggest decisions I had to make was putting off going into medical school right after I graduated college because there were no medical schools close to his college. Knowing that we both wanted to get married and he simply couldn’t just quit football, the only way that we could have made it work was for me to put everything on hold. Playing football at this level doesn’t allow you the freedom to make long-term decisions or rearrange your schedule. It’s also little things you have to relinquish, like having to miss family events or holidays because of football commitments. (Yes, they still practice on Thanksgiving and Christmas break!). However, I am constantly reminding myself of the vows I made to Brandon over two years ago.

Being a wife in my position requires me to constantly humble myself and shift my perspective. It is only natural to want to complain when you wish you could change your situation, but when I feel bitterness start to consume my heart over how busy Brandon is or how little time we have together, I find that I have to take a step back and refocus. On a daily basis, my husband is physically and mentally exhausted. He puts in long days of studying, classes, meetings, watching film, practices, lifting, and so much more. Some days he may be up doing school work until midnight, and then have to be up at 5:00am for a lift. And on top of that, being the only married guy on his team, he also has the added stress and responsibility of having a wife. The last thing he needs when he walks through the doors of our home is a wife who is full of complaints and bitterness.

people forget that unlike professional athletes, they are also full-time students as well…

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So I have learned that when you shift your focus and begin to be grateful in all things, you are able to maintain a positive attitude and be filled with genuine joy, even on the late nights spent alone. I constantly remind myself what an honor it is to be able to walk this journey beside Brandon, encouraging and supporting him through it all. Out of any girl in this world, God allowed me the honor to walk beside Brandon on this journey as his wife, and I never want to take that for granted.

Life isn’t always going to be easy, but to know that you and your spouse can walk through anything hand in hand continues to give me courage and strength no matter how exhausting football season may be for us both. I will constantly choose to give myself and my husband grace as we move ahead, knowing that there is purpose in every season of life we will walk through.

This season is exposing my weaknesses and showing me areas that I need to work on, but in doing so it has allowed me to grow and mature as both a wife and a woman. I have learned how to choose joy over bitterness, sacrifice over selfishness, and forgiveness over anger. Ultimately leading to strength of mind and character.

I made a commitment to Brandon two years ago at the altar, and my words would simply be meaningless if I didn’t choose to fight when things were hard, or sacrifice to allow him to pursue his dreams. I know that regardless of how busy Brandon is or how little time we may spend together, our faith and our commitment to one another can get us through anything. I love my husband more than anything; so, if that means driving 25 hours in one weekend to watch him play a game that I still don’t completely understand all the rules to, then I will gladly do it again and again.

I have learned how to choose joy over bitterness, sacrifice over selfishness…

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You’ll also like The Grit and Grace of a Baseball Wife, A Woman of Grit Without a Hard HeartAnatomy of a Strong WomanSweat and Sacrifices… Earning the Title of “Olympian”, You Can Manage Seasons of Changeand A Woman’s Grit Is Her Biggest Asset for Success
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Andrea loves a great cup of coffee, and all things chocolate.

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