Marriage Changes Game

Aug. 23, 2000

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -

College football players have a lot going on in their lives.On the field, there are games, practices, meetings, medical treatment,travel. Off the field are school, women, parties, women, study, women.

You get the picture.

But two University of Wyoming football players have one less distractionthan their teammates.

Junior free safety Pete Merrill is the only member of the team who ismarried. Junior cornerback Gideon Smith is engaged to be wed next month.

"The only thing that is different is I don't spend as much time (with theguys)," the 24-year-old Merrill said. "But I'm just one of the guys when Iam with them.

"I have no other distractions. It's football and school. I don't have toworry about dating other girls or none of that. That is a distraction for alot of people.

"I do get teased a little bit about being the grandpa and being the marriedguy. But it's no big deal, it doesn't bother me at all."

Merrill and his wife, Brittany, were married Dec. 30 in Mesa, Ariz. They metat Eastern Arizona Junior College in Mesa.

After the wedding, the Merrills took a couple of weeks for a honeymoon andwedding receptions. They then moved to Laramie to start their new livestogether.

"I either had to wait another semester to get married or do it and come uphere," Brittany said. "So we decided to go ahead. It was kind of exciting."

The NCAA doesn't keep track of marriage rates among student-athletes. Butthose who are married generally are further along in school and are usuallya little older than their teammates.

But being married to a football player isn't easy, especially frommid-August until mid-November. Their time is consumed with practice,meetings, games, etc.

"You just have to be really understanding," Brittany said. "You have to justknow that he won't always be home. It's unpredictable. You need to beflexible and understanding."

Smith, 22, said meeting his fianc?e, Kelly Osburn, is the best thing thatcould have happened to him, both on and off the field.

"She has been a great motivator," he said. "She knows my weaknesses, and shecan just look at me and say, 'We need to talk.' We talk things out and helpsme out a lot. I am truly blessed."

Smith met Osburn while the two attended Scottsdale (Ariz.) CommunityCollege. They have dated about seven months.

A wedding date has yet to be set, but Smith said he hopes to marry Osburnnext month in Laramie. The two are in the process of finding a church andtaking marriage classes.

"I know it will be busy with football and everything, but we want to getstarted with the marriage classes and do this right," Smith said.

Pete said being the only married guy on the team has its advantages.

"There are quite a few guys on the team who have serious girlfriends," hesaid. "They come up and ask me what it's like being married, and that theyare thinking about it. So I give advice every once in a while."

UW coach Vic Koenning has handled his fair share of married players over his12-year coaching career. In fact, he was married while he was in college."Each guy is different," he said. "Some guys, it makes it harder on them,some guys, it helps them.

"Pete's a solid guy anyway. I was married in college. If I hadn't beenmarried, I probably would have gotten into all kinds of trouble. It helpedme, I know."