Women married to NFL Mormons do best to keep things normal at home
Still, she's grateful for the opportunities that have come from being the wife of an NFL player, especially when it comes to educating other players and their wives about the LDS faith.
The Larsens have several friends on the team who are strong in their Christian faith and with whom they've shared some positive experiences. They've had teammates over to dinner and prayed together.
When friends watch their children, the Larsen kids make sure their babysitters read the Book of Mormon to them.
"They won't go to bed without it," Ann said.
Ann doesn't worry too much about her husband's safety in the violent world of professional football. She says he's an intelligent player who's worked hard to get where he is.
"He has good form and he's smart with where he's throwing his body," Ann said. "I'm just so proud of him. He's so competitive and he's so tough.
"He's a good person and he helps people around him."
There's a lot more to life than football for Brooke and Brady Poppinga.
The couple runs a nonprofit called the Poppinga Play It Forward Fund, which has taken them to Africa, the Dominican Republic and Romania on humanitarian projects. Brooke writes a regular article for a family magazine in Wisconsin, while Brady is working on his first book. On top of being a seven-year NFL linebacker and a current starter for the St. Louis Rams, Brady also studied entrepreneurial business at the prestigious Wharton School and will start studying broadcasting this offseason.
The Poppingas have a busy travel schedule but often end up being substitute teachers in their home ward. The couple has three children. When they have time together, they love to play chess.
Brooke says that an NFL career is challenging, but the gospel keeps the Poppingas focused on what is most important.
"You have to be committed to your marriage and be independent at the same time," she said via email. "There are a lot of stresses that no one can understand unless they are a part of an active NFL career. … The NFL has a huge divorce rate. Having a temple marriage is a vital symbol to our family of the greatest good in life; an unbreakable, eternal familial bond based on God at the center of everything."
Brooke and Brady both come from families where their mother was a first-generation convert. Brady's father eventually joined the church, while Brooke's father, who has passed away, was a nondenominational Christian pastor. Both Brady and Brooke served full-time missions in the Uruguay Montevideo West Mission.
Time is the family's scarcest commodity. The months during the season are lived at "rocket speed," she says. In addition to practices, meetings and games, there are obligations like autograph signings, marketing appearances, football camps for kids and school visits.
The Poppingas try to make sure whatever they do has the purpose of drawing themselves and others to God "because that's where joy is experienced.
"In our hearts, Brady and I will always be missionaries and disciples of Christ," she said. "… It's important to always be aware of the needs of others in every place you find yourself and to remember that everyone needs the pure love of Christ in their lives. We believe that God answers people's prayers through others, so we try to tune in and be sensitive to how we can help our fellow man and woman."
Since San Diego free safety Eric Weddle signed a $40 million contract last summer, more fans recognize him in public. They ask for pictures and autographs. Women hold up signs that say, "Marry me Eric." His wife, Chanel, is the first to say it comes with a job they chose to pursue.
"This is how he supports us," she said. "I try not to ask a lot of him during the season, but I still expect him to help at home with the kids, to be a father, a husband and the head of our household."
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