Or should I say, just beginning. But the months/weeks/days of sleepless nights are OVER. On September 2nd, at 8:00 a.m. – G was released from the Kansas City Chiefs. On September 3rd, at 12:00 p.m. – G was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs Practice Squad. Interested in reliving the most exhausting weekend of my existence? Read on.
If you’ve been keeping up on the personal deets of my blog, then you know I left y’all with an emotional, hopeful & desperate post. It detailed the roller coaster ride that is free agency in the NFL. I was drained, lost, yet happy to reconnect with my faith in some of the most trying moments. Gehrig was finished with training camp. He had bonded with rookie QB Pat Mahomes, some of the receivers, and was continuously excelling through every week of practice. We felt really good about him earning his place with the Chiefs. When the preseason started, he didn’t see a ton of action, but was playing/getting targeted enough to get noticed. We had signed for our apartment (on a refundable deposit) and I had secured multiple job interviews in a city we fell deeply in love with, everything seemed to be working in our favor. There was always this underlying, anxiety-inducing notion of everything falling through, but football had broken our hearts before – so we figured it’d be best to plan ahead and be ready rather than hold off on everything. G had surprised me with a flight to KC to attend the last preseason game – a home game vs. the Titans that could potentially secure his future with the Chiefs. Excitedly, I packed my DIETER tank & practically skipped to my gate at the airport.
G’s parents had picked me up from the airport and we drove to the player’s hotel to snag our tickets. My heart was racing when I leaped into his arms – I’ll tell ya, even after 4 years, long distance really makes you appreciate your other half. It felt so good to be in his presence (even for like 15 short minutes) we were all SO hopeful leading up to the game. At the hotel, I took a two hour nap (I slept maybe 12 minutes the night before, due to the excitement) and during it I literally dreamt that G had made the 53 man roster, that I was sobbing with joy as I retweeted multiple NFL reporters discussing an undrafted free agent who made it. I woke up, got ready and we made our way to Arrowhead stadium.
THE LAST PRESEASON GAME
We arrived early enough to scout out the incredible VIP section of the stadium, reserved for teammates families and wealthy season ticket holders. It was air conditioned, carpeted, marble EVERYWHERE. The granite bars sparkled like the eyes of the eager bartenders, waiting on your every beck + call – this was not your D1 MAC division football stadium y’all. Instead of grabbing a reheated hot dog and a cup of beer, we dined at the DIY pasta/bloody mary bar. I was amazed by this experience – even the University of Alabama could not compete. Unfortunately, my nerves were so bad I could hardly get the creamy Chicken Alfredo down. We were able to catch G & Patrick practicing, and I couldn’t help but admire how well my fiancé fit. He moved so naturally, caught everything in his path, joked with his teammates. This was where we were supposed to end up, I just knew it. The team left the field to get dressed and I nervously gulped down my pink Zinfandel.
The national anthem played and flames shot into the sky as the team reentered the field. I feel like I have to give my heart props, how any human’s heart can beat so rapidly/loudly without me keeling over, IDK. I was shaking with excitement and felt my stomach lurch when Gehrig went in. He hadn’t played the same string as Pat for awhile, so I knew he was going to have an incredible first half. I focused on Pat as he drew his arm back and sought out an open receiver – sure enough, G was almost to the end zone when the ball was shot into his arms and–
WHAT THE F#$@!? My jaw dropped.. I couldn’t believe it. He dropped. He NEVER drops. My heart sank, my stomach lurched, my armpits started sweating, a prickly feeling shot down my spine, the few bites of Alfredo were making a surprise appearance. They pulled him. He didn’t go back in. In just one half of an effing football game, I saw our future slipping away. Our dream wedding, our Dieter Dog Rescue, a beautiful old, restored Victorian home, our comfortable way of living, our debt-free future children living life without having to worry about student loans – gone. Even though this was a totally real possibility, I couldn’t believe it was happening. Receivers drop – The New York Jets have the highest drop percentage (5.5%) of 2016 with 30 drops per 546 targets. It wasn’t the drop that bummed me out so much as the limited amount of playing time he was getting following the error – how was he supposed to prove his worth? How was he going to get on the roster? My mind spun, my heart sat in my throat. He had a nice punt return towards the end of the game, but the writing on the wall was clear: he made an error and they were gonna make him pay for it.
Following the game (and a solid 30-6 win) we were supposed to meet him in the Chiefs family lounge. They had a fab little buffet ready for the teammates and families, but when G emerged from the locker room (biting his bottom lip) I knew this wasn’t about to be a celebratory post-game snack. He motioned for us to follow him to the car and we did, in complete silence. We rode back to the hotel without a word and I was contemplating if they had cut him right then and there.
When we were alone, we just embraced each other. This wasn’t what we expected or planned. We thought we’d be celebrating. We thought we’d be taking a photo on the field and going out afterwards for a bite to eat – not clutching each other, harbored in an anxiety-filled hotel room, both unsure what to say. Before, we knew a roster spot was a long shot – but a possibility, along with a good shot of making the practice squad. Now, we wondered if making the practice squad was a possibility and what the chances were of getting cut completely. All of our plans, all the texts we sent back + forth, swooning over how perfect Kansas City was for us, my potential dream job, taking our boys to Leewoof Dog Park – gone.
The next morning, we woke up feeling a little comfort by each other’s presence. Before the game, we had planned to spend all of Friday exploring our new city. Now what? NFL teams could make cuts starting Friday, so we were on the edge of our seats, rattled with nerves. We walked to G’s favorite breakfast spot – something to get our minds off of the situation and to get out of the hotel room (riddled with bad energy.) On our way, I couldn’t help but admire the city. We walked through a gorgeous park (one of dozens – KC loves their trees) and all the articulate architecture (it’s the city of fountains and sculptures.) It hurt my heart to consider not being able to live there. We were seated right away and I ordered a ricotta cheese stuffed croissant. The food came out quickly and it looked AMAZE – I dug right in. Only about 5 bites into my croissant, G’s phone rang. My eyes bulged – was this the call? He answered it and thankfully it was just a teammate asking if he had heard anything yet. I promptly excused myself to the restroom. I never thought that I’d be dry heaving a ricotta stuffed croissant into the toilet and folding my hands/praying at the same time – yet here I was. I prayed endlessly from April – September. The praying never stopped. I asked God constantly to bless Gehrig with this goal he’s been seeking since childhood. I made offers and propositions about devoting my life to serving others. I tried to convince him that nobody deserved this more. I felt an endless wave of guilt because while I was begging for him to bless us with this opportunity, there were hurricane Harvey victims in Texas begging for God to simply reunite them with family members. My heart felt consistently heavy and my nerves were shot.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the city. It was awkward. Imagine – your significant other calls you up and says “we’re going to take a 3 day vacation and I’ll let you know at the end if I want to marry you or leave you.” Wouldn’t you spend the entire time fawning over them? How could we find solace in a place that we might never see again? I even tried finding faults in the streets of Kansas City – more homeless people than I’m used to, a funky smell in Loose Park…regardless, nothing could make me fall out of love with such a perfect place. We even visited the Rose Garden, a breath taking botanical garden that I envisioned our wedding ceremony taking place. Along with the pain of having to leave KC behind, I was facing more time being long distance from G. If he didn’t get picked up by a team, he would probably move home as he trained at a family friend’s gym in Indiana and I would be stuck back in Cleveland – I couldn’t deal with the thought of that. The worst part? I knew it would break G’s heart to be cut. I sure as hell didn’t want to watch that unfold. We went to dinner and felt we could call it a day when we hadn’t received any news by 7 p.m.
Crunch time. No matter what, at the end of the next 24 hours, our fate would be sealed. Unfortunately, my flight home was scheduled for 12:00 p.m. because we assumed we would have received the news on Friday. He left our hotel room at 7:30 a.m. and I burst into tears as I hugged him goodbye. It’s way harder to say goodbye when you don’t know when you’ll see them again. I desperately wanted to be with him when he got the news, so that I could remind him that we’d be okay no matter what – but that wasn’t the case. I could only imagine getting the news at the airport (or while I was in the air and sobbing through my layover in Chicago.) As G left for the Chiefs facility, I texted him one last message of love and faith. I decided to head down to the breakfast buffet and attempt to eat something. When he didn’t text back right away, I knew it was because the coaches were sealing his fate.
I was fumbling with a styrofoam coffee cup lid when I felt my phone vibrate in my back pocket. My heart almost shot out of my chest. I shut my eyes before grabbing for my phone – this. was. it.
So there it was. All I could muster was “okay.” But I was sobbing right there in the frickin’ breakfast buffet line between the Omelette chef and yogurt case. Practice squad was the best outcome we could have – and we had it. I immediately called my Mom and she was crying too (that’s why we’re besties) we were so grateful that this was how it ended, G got to stick with this team he loved and we got to start our life in the city we fell in love with.
I was so eager to get home and tell the boys (our bulldogs) that we were days away from reuniting with their dad. That he was living his dream, that I could possibly live my dream for writing for a magazine (KC is one of the few cities left that has a successful print publication industry) and that they were going to be playing in the best dog park in the country. My family was thrilled, and at 12:00 p.m. he signed onto the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad.
For those of you who have followed our journey, thank you for your prayers and support. I fully believe that God blessed us with this opportunity and I am so grateful and eager to use this lifestyle to serve others in the community and continue to complete our goals (like building our Dieter Dog Rescue one day!) My admiration and love for G is out of this world and I couldn’t be happier to be by his side as he achieves his ultimate dream. To our families and friends – everything, I mean EVERYTHING from encouraging texts to helping us with moving and settling in, it means the world to us. A LOT of tears, anger, confusion, hope and happiness went into this undrafted free agency process and I’m so glad we made it through. I am incredibly thankful that this roller coaster is finally resting for now and that we can finally call
KANSAS CITY: HOME.
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