OUR LOVE STORY

This is probably my favorite story to tell. It’s my love story and today I’d like to share it with you. It all started in 1991. My mom remarried a wonderful man named Kevin, he had two boys. We became an instant family. It was exciting for all of us. I gained siblings and a ‘dad’ that would one day walk me 1/2 way down the isle, that's another great story. We moved the summer before 8th grade, and if you remember being in middle school, moving from your friends and changing schools was NOT ideal. But like my love for new spaces and decorating, I was game for a new room, but missed my friends and old neighborhood terribly. I’ve always been friendly and outgoing, so making friends wasn’t going to be hard. School started that fall, and on the first day I sat down in my math class amongst my new classmates. It was like a scene out of Forrest Gump, you know the part when they're on the bus and every time he went to sit down he got a dirty look or was told, ‘you can’t sit here’. Yep, it wasn't the warmest welcome. Funny enough, most of those rude middle schoolers ended up as bridesmaids in my wedding, became my best friend and I am the god mother to their children. See it all works out. Just keep smiling and kill them with kindness, that’s what my mom always said. 

1992/8th grade dance

1992/8th grade dance

Things were going well. I was making friends, leading clubs and winning them all over. Including the teachers. I landed that cool gig of picking up attendance cards from all the classes daily during first period. And it was on that day we locked eyes. He was a tall, had dark hair, green eyes and a great big smile, with no braces. That was rare for a middle school boy. I hadn't really seen him before, yet how could I have missed this 6ft "boy"? He can’t really go unnoticed. He was cute and the crush was instant. I looked forward to seeing him daily and planned my entrance into the classroom and probably my outfit too. Not sure he thought about his wardrobe, but I remember it well. It was knee length jean shorts (which was cool then) Guy Harvey t-shirt, Reeboks and Chicago Bulls gold charm. Totally hot, right? 

Mid way through the year I invented ways to get him out of class and say he was needed for Peer Counseling or some BS like that. Remember, the teachers loved me and I was running things by now. He would watch me walk to the lunch room, and word started getting back to me that he thought I had nice legs. We were pretty smitten with each other. But it wasn’t middle school official until we kissed by the buses, before we our 8th grade trip to Disney World. From that moment on we’ve been pretty much inseparable. I would watch him shoot baskets at the local park, make collages on my wall of pictures of us and talk on the phone every single night. My notebooks were covered with LG + SH, you know all the things you do at 14 when you’re obsessed with a boy. I saved our 1st movie ticket (Lethal Weapon 3) and every single one since, and still do. 

Landyn and Steve were pretty much an item, there wasn't one without the other. That trend continued into freshman year of high school. There were the occasional breakups, you know the ones that lasted for 2 hours, 2 days or two weeks max. The ones where your friends don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend and they talk you into breaking up. Dumb stuff like that. Neither of us drove, so his mom would take us to the movies or drop us off at Outback Steak House for dinner, followed up with a pizza when we went back to his house. That was our thing, and you need to remember I was dating an future athlete with an appetite. He was 6’ 1”and 190 lbs and cleaned shaved when we started this thing. I often times wonder if my mom and dad thought I was lying when I said he was in my grade. He was a gentle giant. Kind, sensitive and made me laugh. We were best buds. 

His mom worked for the school we attended, so we were spoiled and spent most lunch periods in her office. She made us a matching lunch everyday: turkey & cheese sandwich + chips + gummy life-savers, followed by a late pass back to class. Hand in hand we roamed those halls. That continued and so did this love. He was the captain of the football team, I was the Senior Class President. He lettered three sports, I ran the high school newspaper + hosted our radio station. He was the Homecoming King, I was the Prom Queen. He was being looked at by colleges across the country, and I was planning on staying in state to pursue interior design. 

 

10th grade Homecoming Dance

10th grade Homecoming Dance

He was offered a full scholarship by the University of Michigan to play football, so naturally I made him a football cake using at least 7 different cake decorating tips. Our parents gave us a graduation party together and it was an exciting time for all of us. But that also meant that we would soon be apart. We spent that summer together, packing in as much as we could. There were tears. What would happen? Would we make it? Would the distance be too much? Those were the questions we would ask each other. Our communication has always been really good, and looking back, I’m grateful we developed that early on. 

His parents had a cabin in the Smokey Mountains, so that summer we spent a few weeks there relaxing, hiking, grilling, fishing and strolling those country flea markets. We were soaking up every single second of being together and not wanting it to end. But the day arrived when we had to leave that summer in the rearview, and start looking ahead. So, we packed up the truck full of all his college loot and headed towards Michigan and on the way, they dropped me at the Nashville International Airport (It’s funny now to think this is where we’d end up with our two kids 25 years later. Life is pretty cool) And this is where we said our goodbyes. Oh man, the tears were flowing. I’m pretty certain we hugged for a good 20 minutes. I didn't want to let go. Neither of us did. His mom told me later that when I boarded that plane, he broke down like a baby and just sobbed.

1996/ Prom

1996/ Prom

Freshmen year was good. School was going well for both of us. I was working and saving money to fly back and fourth to Ann Arbor to watch as many home games as I could. Seriously, $79 bucks round trip on Spirt Airlines. Dear lord, why did my parents let me do that? Ha! I was getting to know his teammates and my way around campus. It was crazy to see his size change with each visit. He was stronger, more muscular and getting more handsome. How was that possible? I was smitten with him and loved watching him live out his childhood dreams. By this time both of our families were decked out in Maize + Blue, and college football Saturdays became a BIG DEAL. 

Sophomore year was much the same. Plenty of visits, long distance phone bills and dreams of the future discussed nightly. With the addition of some pretty amazing awards and honors he was receiving {Two year Team Captain, 4 year All Big 10 Selection, Big Ten Offensive Lineman Of the Year, 2 Time All American, 1st Team All American Honors, not to mention a National Championship win} This boyfriend of mine was becoming quite the the star. Crazy enough, none of that was an indicator to me. I never could have dreamt up this amazing life he worked so hard to give us. All I knew back then, is that I wanted to marry him, live in a white house and have a son named Wyatt. That’s all. Well, two out of the three is pretty good. 

Now, this is when the true love story starts. It was the summer before our junior year. I’m now in nursing school and working in a hospital. I know, you’re like…. wait, what? I had enrolled in Design School and remember telling my parents a few semesters in, “Design school is really expensive and I feel like I already know all this” *side note: my dad is a builder and my mom is like Martha freakin’ Stewart. So basically, I was born with all those skills. So while in school I was working for a doctor, answering phones and billing etc. I realized that I loved the patients and became overly interested in the blood and guts. So I switched careers. And while floating between med-surg. and the ER I realized this is what I wanted to do. You know that time in your life, when one day you know what you want and the next day you don’t. Basically your early 20’s. 

Steve + Tom Brady

Steve + Tom Brady

Things between Steve and I were moving along, but the distance was taking it’s toll on us both. The phone conversations became a little like groundhogs day. It was the same old thing for him and me. Practice, work, school, labs, practice, work, school, labs…… We were running out of things to say. We were both busy and living thousands of miles from one another. It’s not as if we had the desire to date other people, we were both crazy busy and I think just probably needed some space. But neither one of us wanted to utter those words. But one day I suggested it. Don’t ask me why? I’m just going to say, thank god I was the mature girl that I was. Something told me space is what we needed. I mean, think about it…..we literally had been inseparable since 8th grade and here it is our junior year of college. All I knew is that I didn’t want to wake up one day at thirty-five with two kids and had never dated anyone else. I was only getting married once and it was going to be for the right reasons. And that saying kept playing in my head….If it’s meant to be, then it will all work out. And with those words we broke up. He didn't take it well, don’t let me fool you, neither did I. But deep down I knew this was the right decision. I hoped. It was hard. Really hard. Lot’s of tears and phone calls back and fourth of why we should get back together. But as hard as it was I stood by my decision. The one I made for both of us. But did I ever question myself? Hell yes I did. Did I really just throw this incredibly smart, handsome, loving man to the wolves? Dear god, what was I thinking? I'm not sure, but I trusted my heart. As you can imagine we had plenty of mutual friends, and by that time I was pretty close with most of his teammates. Plus, with me being in Florida, all of our high school friends made really great PI’s. Let’s just say, everyone was keeping tabs on both of our whereabouts + comings and goings. 

Time passed, holidays came and went. And without fail a sweet greeting card would arrive in my parents mailbox, his way of just checking in. I was having fun going out with my girlfriends, staying out all night and acting 22. It was different. I had a boyfriend most of my life, so being single was new. Weird really. We were both exploring this new territory. Did we like it? Nobody knew really what the other was thinking. I wondered what he was up to? Was he sad? Did he meet the one? Did he think about me? Time would pass and I’d hear nothing. Once in a while word would get back that he had gone on a few dates and I went on a few myself. 

I could write 10 more paragraphs about what happened next, but let me just sum it up for you real quick. I met a guy, we moved to Virgina for 6 months. Moved back home. He was in love with me. Popped the question on a Saturday night, I said yes. woke up in shock. Gave back the ring on Monday. Steve heard about that. Took a red-eye home. Asked me what I was thinking. We got in a fight. He flew back to Michigan. He was sad. So was I. That was December. 

 2 Time All American / University Of Michigan

 2 Time All American / University Of Michigan

Now it’s January, I’m working for Dr. Tanner again. Steve is training/ preparing for the NFL Draft. Signed with his agent and was back in Florida, and would be for a few months. Meanwhile I know none of this. It’s a Friday about 12 noon and for some reason I called home during lunch to talk to my mom. She says, “Guess who came by the house today?” I said, “Who?” She says, “Steve!” If you could have seen my face. I was like WHAT? WHY? WHAT DID HE SAY? “We had a nice visit and caught up. It was so good to see him” Then what I asked? She said, “Well that’s it really, but he did ask where you were working.” I hung up that phone faster than fast and headed straight for my makeup bag and toothbrush. I was dying!!!! Was he going to show up? 

1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 4 o'clock and nothing, no Steve. I was beginning to wonder. Then while taking an X-ray in the back, the front widow bell rings and behind the glass stands the love of my life. At this point I have no idea he’s here. The receptionist comes to the back and says, “Landyn, there is a really big guy in a suit with roses asking for you” The butterflies of all butterflies took over my stomach and all the girls in the office came rushing over to me. Asking to take the xray. Even the Dr.’s wife, Sue, whipped out her compact offering to powder my face. I calmly said, “No, I’ve got it. I’ve waited my whole life for this, he can wait 10 minutes.” So I let the poor guy sweat to out in the waiting room. His ears were beet red. I was sweating. He looked so good. I hope I did. And I just couldn't stop smiling, we both couldn’t. He asked if we could go outside to talk, and so we did. Long enough that the office closed and my co-workers had to bring me my purse and keys. He said let’s go to dinner, and then out. He wanted to go back to see my parents. He wanted me to quit my job. He wanted me to come live with him while he trained. He wanted to get a ring. He wanted everything. He wanted ME. He said, “It’s happening Landyn, and I only wanted to ever do this with you” I cried. So did he.  

The weekend was amazing. It felt so good to be back in his arms. It felt so good to be us. Monday he headed back to the training facility near Sarasota and I went back to work. We talked 100 times a day and planned our weekends. That continued for a few weeks, then on a Wednesday he called and asked what I was doing this weekend, well duh. Spending it with you. He said, “I want you to come back with me for good this time.” I was like, “I can’t quit my job.”  Friday rolls around and I walk back to Dr. Tanner’s office to grab my paycheck. (backstory… I babysat for Dr.Tanner and his wife in I was in High School, and my parents now live next door to them. So, needless to say, they are very familiar with the Steve + Landyn saga) He says to me, “ So, things seem to be going well with Steve. You look really happy!” “Yes, Very. Thanks”, “That’s good to hear” “Have a good weekend Dr. T!” and I walk towards the door. He says’ “Landyn, one more thing…. and I walk back to his desk. “Here’s next weeks check too. You're fired. Go with Steve. That’s where you’re meant to be.” I hugged him and tears ran down my face. 

We spent that weekend packing up my stuff, only about six duffle bags of clothes, and pulled out of my parents driveway. I haven't been home since. We spent the next two months living together in Bradenton, Florida at IMG Academy where Steve and other top NFL prospects would train for the 2001 draft that April. It was fun. He’d work out, practice, condition daily. I would make these big guys lunch and then we’d either hit the beach or chill. They were tiring days for these guys, and I was so happy to be there to take care of him, all the while reconnecting after being apart for the last year and a half. Life was good. When the program was complete we decided to go live at his parents vacation home in Georgia. Not knowing where home would be for us in the future, that would depend on the team that drafted him. This would be the best option and would give us a place to relax get ready to write the next chapter in our life together. Draft day rolls around. We couldn’t sleep, none of us. Everyone was up early. His mom and I made appetizers, and chilled champagne. Steve’s dad tried to keep busy by tinkering in the garage and Steve pretty much paced the house for hours. We were all trying not to go insane and thinking of anything other than football we could to pass the time.  Wasn’t easy. Actually impossible. I swear that day went so slow. When you are predicted to got the the first round of the draft they invite you and your family to New York City, where you can sit around the table and wait for the phone to ring. The entire thing is televised. I’m sure you’ve seen it on TV. Steve wanted no part of that. He just wanted to be home with us and not being watched by the world. 

Mel Kipper is an analyst and slotted Steve to be the 13th overall pick of the 2001 Draft, which was to Jacksonville. So you can imagine when the the Jaguars were on the clock we were all filled with nervous excitement, but you never can really know what teams will do during those 2 minutes. There are so many moving parts and things change for a team from one pick to the next. Once they selected and it wasn’t Steve, lets just say we all got nervous. Now what? What team will it be? Pick 14, 15, 16……came and went. Next up on the clock was the Seattle Seahawks, followed by the Detroit Lions. None of us never really thought about Seattle. It was Detroit we were thinking would be our home. Steve just finished his college career with the University of Michigan, so more than likely they would take their hometown boy. Right? That’s what we were thinking too. The phone rings and rings again. This is when the head coach calls and says, “Son, Welcome to the team!” Steve answers, assuming it was Detroit. Nope it was Mike Holmgren, Head coach of the Seahawks! Steve answers the phone, meanwhile his parents and I have no idea who’s on the other end. He takes the call and runs into the guest bedroom. We can hear him talking, but still have no idea. Then he peeks his head out the door and says, “WE’RE GOING TO SEATTLE!” We all started jumping up and down. Crying, laughing, giving high-fives. It was bananas. Seriously, one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced. After things settled down a little….these two Florida kids, turned to each other and said, “where in the hell is Seattle?!?” HA! We knew where it was, but it was the furthest of all 32 teams that could have selected him. But man, what an rush! 

2001 NFL DRAFT / 1st Round 17th Overall Pick

2001 NFL DRAFT / 1st Round 17th Overall Pick

Next comes the flashbulbs and that classic photo of the rookie holding his jersey grinning from ear to ear. It was happening! It was ALL THE THINGS! Pretty surreal for all of us. This was what he’d worked so hard for. I couldn’t have been more proud. We moved to Seattle that May, and lived at the La Quinta for a good 2 weeks. We started the house hunt. Now, remember we are two college kids, that a month ago we had a couple thousand dollars to our name, now buying a house!?! We had no idea what we were doing. Ha! After realizing that houses (and Seattle) are expensive and having to broaden our budget a little, we found our very first home. To this day and after moving 9 times, it will always be my favorite. It was in a darling neighborhood with lots of families. We bought it from a couple and they along with most of the neighbors on our street are still our friends to this day. I guarantee most of them will reads this. (Nothing but love for my Stonegate peeps) 

Rookie Year

Rookie Year

Ok, so now we have a house. But we have nothing to put in it. Literally. We closed that afternoon and laid in the middle of our empty living room floor surrounded by duffle bags of clothes and laughed. Steve said, “Let’s go! We got to go shopping. We have nothing!” First stop, Bed Bath and Beyond. He actually dropped me off and headed towards Sears. He was so excited to go buy some tools to fill up his new garage. I grabbed a cart and made my way down the first isle. I was checking it all out and deciding between pot holders and a new drying rack, when he came back. He looked in my cart and said, “what are you doing?” I was nervous for a second, like I had picked out too much. I said, “ just deciding what color I wanted, but I can put one back.” He was like, “This is all you got so far?” Babe, we need EVERYTHING!” We laughed and then the shopping spree of all sprees began. Cart after cart, isle after isle we were loading up and laughing along the way. At one point the manager came one to us, I think he thought we were going to fill all these carts and walk out. Like some sort of prank. I mean, what business do two college looking kids have in the middle of a Bed Bath and Beyond at 6pm on a Friday night? Let’s just say NINE carts later and a scroll for a receipt, we put a pretty good dent in it. Man, we still laugh about that night, and I still have the receipt. 

Training camp rolled around and the big guy headed off to Cheney, WA where he would live in a dorm, sleep on a cheap mattress and go to battle twice a day for the next month. I would drive over and visit weekly to what seemed like jail for these poor guys. Over the next month, I took on my new roll of playing house. I was planting flowers, painting walls and making our house into a home. I was liking this whole domestic thing. Teaching myself how to cook, trying to keep busy and exploring a whole new city. Now, you may be thinking……are you two ever gonna get engaged? Yes and here’s how that went down. It was October 10th, 2001, I was making dinner, roasted chicken I think. I do remember heating the oven and getting ready to put the rolls in when the phone rang. It was Steve and I could hear the frustration in his voice when I answered. “Hello”, “ Hi” he said….. “Everything Ok?”  I asked. “ No, the damn steering on my truck is bad and I’m pulled over on that dirt turn off on Coal Creek Pkwy” “Oh no, seriously? What can I do?” I asked. “ I need you to go in the garage and grab me a 3/16 wrench, that flathead screwdriver and a flashlight” I remember thinking to myself, that’s a brand new truck. He literally just bought it weeks after he signed. What could possibly be wrong? I grew up with brothers and I knew a thing or two about cars. But hey, shit happens right? I tuned off the oven and left everything right were it was. I grabbed all the tools and jumped in my car and drove to him. He was standing there with his hands on his hips. He gave me a quick kiss and crawled under the truck. He asked me to jump up in the drivers seat and turn the wheel left and right as he asked. I kept trying to lean down and see what the problem was, but every time I did, he instructed me   to do something else with the wheel. I had NO IDEA what he was doing. Next thing he says is, “Here, hold these bolts, and don’t drop them” So I did…. One by one he plopped them into my hand. The third one was THE RING. I didn't realize it at first and then that setting 5 o’clock sun caught that beautiful diamond and I about fell over. I think I screamed. I jumped out of that truck so fast. He pulled himself from under the truck and got down on one knee. Cars were honking, we were kissing. It was ALL THE THINGS. I was so surprised. 

April 20, 2002

April 20, 2002

 

We certainly had been talking about it and both knew it was going to happen. He knew if he took me to a nice romantic dinner that I would probably would have had an idea. He wanted to surprise me and boy did he ever. And I had to ask…. how did you come up with this idea? He said while sitting in his O-line meetings that week he thought of it. On the way home he stopped by a hardware store and bought these large bolts. Of course they were shinny and new, so while I was turning the wheel, he was rubbing grease on them to make them appear used and from the truck. Very clever. We went home, never ate that chicken. We had way too many people to call and share our news with. We spent the next hour on speaker phone with our families. Then to celebrate we went to, ready for it….. Arby’s for dinner and ate it in the truck. Ha! You guys, it was perfect. I have the bolts and they sit in a delicate tray on my dresser, still. 

I started planning the wedding from afar. The date was set and we made it official on April 20th 2002 in Miami surrounded by 400+ of our closest friends and family. Yes, a BIG wedding, but when you’ve been together that long and have a history like ours you can’t leave anyone out. From Steve’s HS football coach to Dr. & Mrs.Tanner, they’re all part of the story. So, today I celebrate 15 AMAZING years with my 8th grade sweetheart and I thank you for letting me share our love story. Wether you wanted to hear it or not, It was fun to reminisce and actually write it down. I’ve told it so many times, but now it’s documented right here. 

Happy Anniversary to us! I couldn't have written a more perfect story. I love you. 
Xx
Landyn