A Gridiron Love Story
About the Guest
Falling in love in college isn’t easy – and it’s even harder when your potential future mate is the star football quarterback. Today, we’ll hear the love story between Georgia Bulldogs coach Mark Richt and his wife, Katharyn.
Mark and Katharyn RichtMark and Katharyn Richt live in Athens, Georgia where Mark is the head football coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Their world was rocked in 2006 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. “Katharyn handled her cancer as faithfully as anyone could,” says her friend Vanessa Miller.
Falling in love in college isn’t easy – and it’s even harder when your potential future mate is the star football quarterback.
A Gridiron Love Story
Katharyn: We talked a lot, we were actually best friends but I had never thought he would, have fallen for me.
Mark: We started out as buddies.
Mark: In the beginning I wasn’t sure she would be the one that I would marry, although I liked her a lot. So I spilled my guts to her and I told her everything, every gory detail. She knew every possible thing you could know about me. The good and bad which was more bad than good and she still hung around, and saw something good in me. So I was thankful for that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 27th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear Mark and Katharyn Richt share a great love story today.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. I have had the sense this week, that maybe I’ve seen your allegiance shift a little bit; I mean you went to the University of Arkansas didn’t you?
Dennis: Yes, that’s correct.
Bob: And you’ve been a Razorback fan pretty much all of your life?
Dennis: I have, I have. But, but I do have a…
Bob: I just sense there was a little…
Dennis: It actually started to shift a little before then, but I can’t say that I have turned in my Razorback card. I’ve just picked…
Bob: You just picked up a Bulldog card along the way…
Dennis: I pulled up a Bulldog card. I was for them last year when they were ranked No. 1. I really like Mark Richt and now I like Katharyn because I had a chance to meet her. But they started No. 1 and I thought what a great opportunity that would be to be No. 1. I was really pulling for them last year.
Bob: I haven’t seen the polls, are you starting No. 1 this year?
Mark: No sir, I would say, somewhere around 12 to 15, I would guess, 10 to 15.
Bob: But you will be No. 1 by the end of the season?
Mark: Well, you never know, (Laughter) Lord willing.
Dennis: Well, if you don’t know, that is the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, he coaches in the SEC. He was coach of the year twice and his wife Katharyn. Katharyn welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Katharyn: Thank you, it’s good to be here.
Dennis: You know, I want to hear a little of the romance and how this relationship started. Earlier we heard that Mark had become a Christian and undoubtedly as a result of becoming a follower of Christ his choices and who he dated and the type of young ladies he dated, is this true, Mark, changed?
Mark: Well, actually Katharyn probably has another version of this. I think by the time I became a believer we were already going pretty steady at the time.
Katharyn: We were.
Dennis: Oh really?
Mark: As a matter of fact, not long after that which is within a couple weeks, the Billy Graham Crusade came through town and we went to that together.
Dennis: So, Katharyn, were you a follower of Christ when you were dating Mark?
Katharyn: You know, I thought that I was, but what I had done was grab my parent’s coat tails thing and I didn’t actually realize I wasn’t until our second son was born. So we had been married probably close to seven or eight years before…
Bob: Well, now wait; you did see a change in Mark?
Katharyn: Oh, definitely.
Bob: And did that not cause you to pull back and go what’s going on with him, and what should be going on with me?
Katharyn: Well, you would think that I would of caught it a little bit earlier, but pride is a very…
Bob: Stubborn thing
Katharyn: Yes, and I had a whole lot of it and still struggle with it today.
Mark: Plus, she would fall in the category of what Romans talks about, the moral man.
Dennis: Yes, sure, a very good person.
Mark: Right, still not understanding that we’re born with the sin nature of Adam and so, if you knew Katharyn you would say, “Well, certainly she’s a Christian.”
Dennis: So how did you meet her?
Mark: Well, we actually met on a blind date; we were supposed to meet at your roommates place. I, well, I guess if it was your roommates place it was your place, too, but…
Dennis: That’s when you were coaching at Florida State?
Mark: I was a graduate assistant then and Katharyn’s roommate was dating my fellow graduate assistant, Coach Jay Perkins. I was riding in the car with Jay and Liz, her name was Liz, and somehow I blurted out, you know I need to meet a nice girl and then Liz just went crazy.
“Oh, I’ve got this perfect girl for you. She’s tall and beautiful and elegant and I think she said she was like 21, and when she was probably still 19 at the time. I was a little bit older, I’m about 5 years older, anyway that’s how it started. So we were going to have a blind date, but we accidently met in Publix as we were both getting prepared for the date. Jay and I were trying to get some money and I don’t know pricing some food for the night.
Dennis: So, Katharyn, you dated about how long then?
Katharyn: We actually dated for a year and a half and we were married within a year and a half of meeting each other.
Bob: Were you smitten with him first time out of the box?
Katharyn: I knew within two weeks that I would be blessed to be married to Mark, although I wouldn’t have termed it as that at the time. He was something special. We talked a lot. We were actually best friends is what happened and I never thought he would have fallen for me.
Mark: We started out as buddies.
Mark: We weren’t going to say it was dating just each other and no one else, but we were very good friends. In the beginning I wasn’t sure she would be the one that I would marry, although I liked her a lot.
So I kind of spilled my guts to her, I told her everything about me, every gory detail, so she knew everything, every possible thing you could know about me. The good and bad, more bad than good and she still kind of hung around and saw something good in me so I was thankful for that.
Dennis: So how did you ask her to marry you?
Mark: Well real quick, I’ll give a little story before that.
Dennis: She’s grinning by the way
Mark: We were ….
Dennis: It must be a good story…
Mark: We were getting towards the end of that buddy stage when she was at my house and we were watching TV with a couple of my roommates. The phone rang and it happened to be another young lady. I was trying to be polite to her on the phone, while Katharyn was there, she was Kathy back then. I actually called her Skinny Buddy, that was my nickname for her back then.
When I hung up the phone, she said “take me home.” And I said, “What”?
She said, “Take me home.” So we jumped in the car. As we started driving her home and she said, “What are you doing”?
I said, “I’m taking you home.” She said, “I don’t want to go home.” I said “But you just said you wanted to go home.”
I finally figured out she didn’t like this friend thing anymore. If it was going to continue, it was going to have to be an exclusive dating relationship and I knew that I was at the moment of truth and I….
Dennis: So Skinny Buddy didn’t want any more of the females…
Mark: Skinny Buddy, yes, she put her foot down…
Dennis: What did you think about that, Katharyn?
Katharyn: Well, I was really was tired of it. You can only go so long. I mean, I was five years Mark’s junior and he probably was a little bit shocked when I said that because he was not used to that. They called him Boca Baby because all the girls were attracted to him.
Katharyn: You can tell even still.
Katharyn: Boca Baby.
Mark: Well, I was from Boca Raton.
Dennis: Oh, I understand.
Mark: That was my college nickname, Boca baby.
Katharyn: Yes, he is used to having the women fawn all over him and so I think that when I finally just said, “Okay, that’s it. I’m done playing this game whatever it is.”
Bob: So it was ok for a while, that he had these women interested in him.
Katharyn: Well, we really were best friends.
Bob: Well, when did you start to go, “I don’t like this anymore?”
Katharyn: Well, I guess when I had fallen in love with him and then it started to hurt.
Katharyn: and that’s when I…
Dennis: In case a single guy is going to get this, this is a DTR-- Define The Relationship.
Dennis: I was talking to a young man earlier this week in his 30’s. You need to have a DTR. He’d been buddies with this girl for three and a half years and it’s like get off the fence. What the young lady needs to do is call for the question. Ask him …
Bob: What are your intentions…?
Dennis: What are your intentions and that’s what she did with you.
Mark: Yes, she did.
Dennis: and so…
Mark: It worked, it worked well.
Mark: Do you know after we began to date exclusively, I told her “Kathy, I will never tell you I love you unless I’m ready to marry you.”
Bob: Where had you learned that?
Mark: I learned that…
Mark: over dating relationships.
Bob: Where you hadn’t had that same…
Mark: You tell a girl you love her and it changes everything. It escalates things, and you’re telling her you want to marry her when you say you love her, whether you mean it or not.
Bob: All you’re really saying is I kind of like you a lot.
Mark: Right. So I learned those words were very powerful and I would never say that to her unless I was serious about marrying her. Then I told you I loved you somewhere along the way. You tell it, I don’t remember exactly how…
Katharyn: He totally changed. I could tell our relationship had totally changed. He allowed me to come to the airport to pick him up after a game, which he had never done before. I came with a friend and we’d gone go Shoney’s to eat dinner and my friend asked, Mark what are you doing for Christmas? And Mark said, “Well, I don’t know. What are we going to do for Christmas, Skinny Buddy? I said, “Well, I don’t know.” He got up and went to the salad bar and I looked at my girlfriend, going “can you believe he just said that”?
So, there were things like that because he hadn’t said he loved me yet, but, I knew, there were little clues along the way. Then he actually told me he loved me when we were babysitting my best friend’s child. I guess you could say that was the marriage proposal because once he said that, we started kind of planning the wedding.
Dennis: So you didn’t really …
Katharyn: He did, he did, but we already knew…
Mark: Like I said, I told her, I said earlier, the day I tell you I love you is the day I’m asking you to marry me.
Bob: But was there a time you dropped to a knee and got out a ring…
Mark: Well, I did talk to her father and I asked if it was okay, and he said it was fine. Then we had a dinner where I prepared steak and baked potato, I think, and a salad and we did have a little champagne. I’m not sure it was non-alcoholic or not, but we each had a glass of champagne. I put her engagement ring in her glass and she kept sipping away, and sipping away. It took about an hour for her to finally find…
Dennis: Oh she didn’t find it?
Mark: No, the ring finally touched her lips at the very end,
Bob: You didn’t even see it in there?
Katharyn: No, I didn’t.
Mark: I was watching to make sure she didn’t swallow the dumb thing. (Laughing)
Katharyn: I mean I had never heard of anybody putting it in a drink before, I didn’t know. I did think he was going to ask me that night, but y that time I thought he wasn’t going to ask…
Bob: So when the ring touched your lips what did you do?
Katharyn: I kind of went, ahhhh, and then I looked down in there and I was like, ohh, you know, I think he was actually cleaning the dishes already in the kitchen.
Bob: Did you cry?
Katharyn: Yes, I was happy, you know like goofy little kids.
Bob: You told us earlier, though, that you did not come to faith until after your second child, after David was born?
Katharyn: Yes, that’s right.
Bob: So, what was the turning point for you spiritually?
Katharyn: Well, once Mark was saved I went with him to the Billy Graham Crusade. We attended a lot of FCA camps and so I was being presented with the gospel a lot. Then we actually started attending Celebration Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida and we did a Bible study with Henry Blackaby called, Experiencing God.
Bob: All this time you’re thinking “I’m a Christian?”
Katharyn: I’m thinking I’m a Christian and finally, God just basically laid it out for me and said, “Sister, you’re prideful, you’re not who you think you are, and your defending.”
Bob: Was there an event that brought that to a head?
Katharyn: I remember David was 11 days old, it was December 11, 1994. I remember being on my green couch and I was crying and saying, I know that there have been many times at the FCA events and different things where I’ve said, Yes, Lord, I want you. Yes, Lord I submit to you. But I don’t think I truly saw Him as Lord, as Him being the One who is in control and submitting completely to Him for my life, through the prayer actually.
Bob: When you got home that day, and your wife said guess what happened today, what did you think?
Mark: I can’t say that I recall that moment. I know what happened, but I can’t say that when I came home that night she blurted it out. I’m not even sure that she did that night.
Dennis: I’m wondering if you felt like she was or wasn’t a follower of Christ at that point, as her husband.
Mark: I really thought she was. I don’t know if that moment was just confirmation, as Christ is Lord. She may have been born again already. I don’t know what was in her spirit.
Bob: We’ll get to heaven and find out won’t we?
Bob: That will be fun to do.
Dennis: There will be a few of us settling that issue.
Mark: She absolutely surrendered at that point.
Katharyn: You could tell I had surrendered, because I can remember sitting at Bible study after that with our small group and then Mark would just sit there, he would never be like I told you so kind of mode or I knew you were not, but I could tell by his…
Mark: The thing I love about Katharyn, really is and we all have pride and prideful moments but she will always submit her will to God and to Jesus. She is a spirit filled woman. And even if she gets off on a tangent one way or another she always in her quiet time turns it over to God and she allows the Holy Spirit to handle it and that’s really been a blessing to our marriage.
Bob: Was there any change in your marriage after that point?
Mark: I would say yes. We always did well but I think there was assurance in my mind that we were going to be okay. I knew I would submit my will to God when I had these stubborn spots and I knew she would, too. When we hammered it out face to face sometimes we would let our pride get in the way. But when we would withdraw from the conflict and meditate and really ask God, what’s the right thing to do, we would always come together.
Bob: Katharyn, you and Mark had an opportunity to attend one of our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, how long into your marriage was that, do you remember?
Katharyn: Gosh, I don’t remember. I think it was probably maybe two years after David, because I think David was three.
Bob: And was it your idea that the two of you go?
Katharyn: I don’t remember whose idea but it might have been just to get away. It wasn’t like he ever fought things like that. He loved to get away. That’s one thing we’ve always done. We realized early on that our children were born because of the love between us and so the best security we can give our children is to maintain and …
Mark: love each other.
Bob: Nurture that relationship. Well, I’m guessing it wasn’t a fall conference that you went to because he’s usually busy on the weekends in the fall.
Katharyn: It was in April.
Bob: Okay, and in the middle of spring ball to get away for a weekend is a pretty big sacrifice.
Mark: It was probably after the spring game and it might have been in the middle of spring recruiting, but you know Coach Bowden has always been great to allow those kinds of things.
Bob: So you had a weekend away, and do you remember anything about going to the conference?
Katharyn: Oh, I remember that we got to have a date night and that was fun.
Mark: What did we do?
Katharyn: I think we just had dinner.
Katharyn: We went and had dinner and then we came back. We talked a lot. That’s one thing that the conference does. It helps draw out the conversation between us and helps us talk about the issues that are real issues that sometimes in the busyness of life you can kind of let fall by the wayside. But it was so impactful that we bought weekends for all our siblings.
Mark: That’s right.
Katharyn: And we didn’t have money back then.
Mark: No, we didn’t have any money back then, but we, it was such an impact that we asked every one of our brothers and sisters and their spouses to go. We paid for it.
Bob: And got them gift certificates.
Dennis: That’s cool.
Bob: That really is.
Dennis: That’s cool, you know, just listening to your story hear, the reason your marriage works well is because you both have settled the issue of who is going to be the master.
Mark: That’s right
Dennis: You both are slaves, slaves of Jesus Christ.
Dennis: That’s right and, as a result of that, you know, if two people’s wills are submitted to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords it’s a whole lot easier for two selfish, sinful people to be able to make a lifetime together.
I know because that’s the story of our thirty-six years of marriage. We’re pretty stubborn people and we had six children and got a number of grandchildren now. There’s a lot going on in our lives and I don’t know how couples would make it without the issue of surrender to Christ being settled.
Mark: They might survive, but that’s about all they are doing is surviving, instead of really thriving in the relationship the way God meant it to be.
Dennis: There is a purpose for everything that happens.
Mark: No doubt.
Dennis: Earlier this week I talked to a friend, and not in a trite way, but there is a lot going on in his life, just one thing after another, and read Romans 8:28 to him. “All things work together for good, to those who love God, and who are called according to his purpose.”
If you’re surrendered to Christ, you can rest in the truth of that scripture. That’s a promise. It’s going to work for good. It may not feel good and you may not be able to see the end result and how it’s going to work out. You may not be the national champions like you had hoped you would be.
Mark: Maybe next year, right?
Dennis: Like I was hoping you were going to be…
Mark: That’s right, maybe next year.
Dennis: But you play Arkansas at Arkansas so it’s going to be tough.
Mark: It’s going to be tough.
Dennis: It’s going to be tough.
Bob: You know, but as you say that, I’m thinking about some of the things that as I read through Coach Tony Dungy’s book, Quiet Strength, he talks about how you face disappointments, I mean, big, high profile disappointments that are lived out on the sports page of every newspaper across the country.
What do you do in the midst of that? How do you reflect what it means to be a follower of Christ when that’s your reality on any given day and it’s a high profile reality?
I want to encourage our listeners, especially if we have listeners who are either sports fans themselves or they know somebody who is a major football fan, either a college fan or their fans of the pro game.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and do two things, get a copy of Tony Dungy’s Quiet Strength and get a copy of the CD that features our conversation this week with Mark Richt and pass along to the sports fan you know these resources. It may be a way to encourage them in their walk with Christ. If they don’t know Christ, it’s a great way to introduce them to two guys who have their priorities right and who understand where football is in the bigger picture of life.
Again, the information about both of these resources can be found online at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in Life and then the word TODAY. If you call and get in touch with us, someone on our team can answer any questions you have about these resources or make arrangements to have the ones you need sent out to you.
I hope that those of you who are listening will take just a few minutes today and stop by our web site FamilyLifeToday.com. One of the things we posted on the web are some short video stories. We call them “Take 5” videos because they take less than five minutes for you to watch the stories we are unpacking on video. But they are really stories of how God is using the ministry of FamilyLife in the lives of a lot of couples. We’ve just pulled a few snapshots for you to look at. We think you will find these videos to be very encouraging especially for those of you who help support this ministry with your donations.
We are listener supported so these stories are really stories you are a part of through your financial support of FamilyLife Today. We are approaching the end of our ministry year. August marks the last month of our ministry year. We will start a new year in September and so we’re hoping here in the next few days we can hear from as many FamilyLife Today listeners as possible.
If you can help with a donation as we end one ministry year, we would appreciate it very much and we want to say thanks in advance for the support you’ve provided in the past and for whatever you are able to do here at the end of August. We do appreciate your partnership with us and again you can make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation and we want to say thanks in advance for whatever you are able to do.
Now tomorrow, we are going to talk more with the Coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, Mark Richt and his wife Katharyn. I hope that even if you live in Tennessee or Florida or Mississippi, or Alabama or anyplace else in the country you will tune in and listen to our conversation with the Coach.
I want to thank our engineer today Robbie Neal on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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