|espnW.com: Athlete's Life|
I am wired to let out a big "awwww" for certain moments in life. A baby's wobbly first steps, a newly drafted NFL player hugging his mother and, of course, the story of someone's marriage proposal. Every proposal is special in its own way.
To honor this Valentine's Day's celebration of love and excess sugar, I decided to dig into the personal lives of some of my favorite athletes and learn just what happened the day they went from "unavailable" to "officially off the market."
Olympic gold medalist swimmer Summer Sanders met Olympic skier Erik Schlopy on Nov. 6, 2003. It was a blind date, a fundraiser for the U.S. ski team. The wife of Sanders' agent touted Schlopy as "as perfect for her," and he was. Sanders and Schlopy shared a magical night of laughter, great conversation and more laughter. She says she fell in love in 10 minutes.
Summer Sanders on the proposal: "I was laying in bed. It was 2005, the finals of the French Open. I was watching Nadal win, I believe, for the first time. Erik was making me breakfast in bed and I thought 'Oh, how nice is this?' I didn't notice until I looked back on it, but he was a little nervous. But I remember being so fixated on the French Open that I wasn't noticing his behavior so much. I don't think he even knew what to do. So he slides in a la 'Saturday Night Fever' with the ring in his hand and asks me to marry him. I started laughing so hard at first because his movements were just so funny. Then I jumped up and down and said yes."
Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings first became smitten with his future bride, Nicole Lindsey, during an elementary school band performance. They were both participants -- she played the clarinet and he the cornet. The sixth-graders wound up being friends in high school and dated in college. Greg proposed in 2005.
Nicole Jennings on the proposal: "It happened on a Mother's Day and actually blindsided me. I didn't even think it would ever happen really, although everyone else knew about it. The weekend of the proposal, probably the Friday or Saturday, I was trying to get in with my hairdresser, but the spots were all filled and I had to make an appointment for the following week. Apparently Greg called my hairdresser and told them he was about to propose and he needed them to find me a spot. I didn't really know why he got me the appointment, but figured my hair must have looked really bad if he was trying to get it done for me.
"Then Sunday we went to church as usual. Afterward everyone came to the house and it was Mother's Day so I didn't really think anything of it. But a couple of the families from church came by, and looking back, a couple of people brought their video cameras. So it was time for dinner and everyone was giving their mom presents. Then Greg and his siblings played a video. They were on the video talking about how much they loved their mom, why she's so important and the things she has done for them. At the end Greg did his spiel, then segued into someone else who had done a lot for him and he kept saying 'she, she, she.' I was thinking he was still talking about his mother, but in reality he was talking about me. To end the video he said, 'That's why I want to know if SHE will be my wife.' And then he got down on his knee with a ring."
When Andrea Pink met current Clippers forward Caron Butler at college orientation at UConn, she was unimpressed. According to her, he was the "loud, typical jock type" she couldn't stand. After a failed attempt at a date their freshman year, she agreed to see a movie with him during their sophomore year. Coincidentally (or not), the movie was "Love and Basketball." Their relationship moved quickly from there.
Andrea Butler on the proposal: "All of this began around November of 2001. That next February, on Valentine's Day, we were going to see a movie. Caron claims we saw 'Collateral Damage.' I was so shocked by what happened that night I can never recall a single detail about that movie.
"The proposal started at the concession stand. My grandmother had bought me this pearl ring because that is my birthstone, and I remember Caron asking if he could see it. So I took it off and gave it to him at and never took it back. So during the movie, I thought he randomly said 'Would you ever marry me?' At least that's how I interpreted it. But in reality he said, 'Would you marry me?' and slipped a ring on my finger. My first thought was 'This ring is too big,' thinking it was supposed to be my pearl ring. When I looked down, it was an engagement ring."
Lions safety Chris Harris met Kenetria Richardson when they were in high school in Arkansas, in what she describes as a "hi-and-bye situation." Fast forward to four years ago, when social networks began to reach mass popularity. The couple first connected on MySpace, but it was a year later on Facebook where they struck up lengthier conversations and their lives changed forever.
Kenetria Harris on the proposal: "It was September of 2009, Labor Day weekend. Chris invited me to go to our home state of Arkansas for the weekend. The specific plan was to go on this jazz cruise on the Arkansas Queen, which goes up and down the river for a few hours with a band and drinks and the whole shebang.
"Chris asked me to invite my mom and my sister to go, which I thought was cool and not unusual. But then he said he invited his sister and parents to go. I thought it was odd because his dad is a homebody and never leaves the house.
"On the way home that weekend, he called me and said, 'This is going to be a very special weekend.' So I immediately told my mom that I thought he was going to try and propose. My mom snapped at me. But that whole night before the cruise I couldn't help but think it.
"So we're on the boat, drinking, having a good time. Near the end of the night, the band started playing our song, which was 'The Point of it All' by Anthony Hamilton, and we're just dancing and I'm singing that song. While we're dancing, he started saying 'I love you with all my heart,' and I said, 'Thank you, everything has been wonderful.' He asked what could make the night better, to which I replied 'Nothing.' But right then he got down on one knee and proposed. I was in tears. He was in tears. Everyone on the boat was in tears."
Kymberlee and pitcher Paul Byrd met in 1992 when he returned to LSU to work out with one of his former trainers and get ready for Indians spring training. Paul moved into the apartment next door to Kymberlee. One night, he drove her to the grocery store and the connection was instant.
Kymberlee on the proposal: "He was playing Triple-A baseball in Charlotte for the Knights and had flown me out for a visit. Because I flew in later in the afternoon and he had practice to attend, he told me that he had left car keys and a map of where the car was parked at the airport info desk. I was disappointed he wouldn't be there to greet me. I arrived, and as I walked through the Charlotte airport he ran up behind me, grabbed me and asked me to marry him. We got to the car and I closed my eyes and he slipped the ring on my finger. He's the love of my life, and last month we celebrated our 18th anniversary."