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Paton Manning

March 14, 2013

“Honey,” Jason called from work last week, “You will never guess who is going to be here, tonight, at the BX on a USO tour…Austin Collie!” This name might not mean anything to most football fans but in my husband’s not so humble opinion, Austin Collie is potentially “one of the greatest wide receivers in BYU football history.”

Jason is just about as committed to our college Alma Mater and their athletic institution as he is to me. It goes without saying that after thirteen years of marriage I have come to accept that I will simply have to make do with half his heart.

“He’s going to be here with a group of athletes, you know, some Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and someone from the Red Sox, Paton Manning, an ex-American idol contestant, just a group of celebrities.”

I might not be a huge football buff but even I know that Paton Manning is pretty much the Elvis of this generation’s football world. But in my husband’s eyes the equation was simple: Paton Manning is great but he’s not a Cougar.

“Do you think I could get Austin to sign my Steve Young autographed football?” he said.

We arrived two hours early dressed to the nines in all things BYU. My girls were in full cheer costumes (complete with pom poms), the boys in their football jerseys, and my husband with blue and white stars in his eyes.

There were three or four families–about twenty people including kids–decked out in BYU gear to welcome Austin Collie. Amid a couple hundred Bronco and Red Sox fans it goes without saying that Austin was pretty much the least well known of the bunch; rumor has it he’s good friends with Mr. Manning and was probably invited at the request of The King.

After the show and two exhausting hours in line we finally started to move. That’s when the bad news came, “No autographs! No pictures! No speaking to the celebrities!” The look on my husband’s face was pure devastation.

“What?” he said, “We’ve waited all this time and I’m not even going to get an autograph?”

Now, I like my man to be happy. He constantly goes out of his way to spoil me, the least I could do was wrangle an autograph for him.

As we finally made our way to the top of the stairs we could see the ten celebrities sitting in a row in front of a back drop with Manning smack dab in the middle and Austin sitting just to his right. The fans were herded behind them in groups of 10-15 for a quick snapshot then immediately moved off for the next set. Super impersonal.

“Here,” I said to Jason as our turn grew near, “Get your marker and your football out and just…trust me.” In the shadow of the Paton Manning fans it was easy to see that we were probably the only ones who cared about Austin Collie. Chances were he’d appreciate our efforts.

Finally the moment arrived and we made our way along the back of the celebrity line. I leaned in past Mr. Manning and put a hand on Collie’s shoulder. “Austin! We are so excited to see you! You’ve got BYU fans here!”

His smile was huge. “Awesome! Thanks so much you guys!”

Despite the aggressive barks from the USO chaperones I moved in for the kill. “Excuse me,” I said leaning in past Paton Manning, “Austin, would you please sign our Steve Young football? Just really fast? My husband is a huge fan!” Jason was standing behind me with watery eyes and a slack jaw. In hindsight I probably could have pulled the “emotionally delayed” card.

“Sure!” Mr. Collie said. I took the football from my shaking husband and passed it through. Then I noticed Paton Manning giving me the stink eye.

“Oh!” I said to Mr. Manning when I realized how odd our request must have looked, “Hi! Um…you’re here too!”

I guess my blood runs blue after all.

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