PE: Not at all. I had never liked football, but I had a friend at Utah State who loved football. She knew LaVell and she’d go to all his games and tell me everything he did. She was dating LaVell’s fraternity brother who set us up on a blind date. I kinda fell in love with him right at first. I just thought he was so normal, so down-to-earth. He didn’t play games, he was who he was. I think LaVell has always felt comfortable being who he is, in his own skin, and I appreciated that. And then another thing, he didn’t seem to be fanatic about football. I was the one who brought it up in conversation when we were dating, not him, and I hadn’t even seen him play — although he thought I had because I told him about all his great efforts on the team and how well he was doing. But I never actually saw him in a football game until we were married.
DN: Did you ever tell him that?
PE: (laughs) Yes. On our honeymoon — we went to Sun Valley — I told him and he was shocked. And the thing is I’m really a very basically honest person, but I really liked him and I thought I couldn’t tell him I hadn’t seen him play for fear he wouldn’t come back. So I waited to confess on our honeymoon.
DN: When you finally did see him play, is that when you fell in love with the game?
PE: No. I hated it. Hated it with a passion. I didn’t understand the game and it looked like a bunch of people trying to kill each other. I was afraid he would get hurt.
DN: But what about your future as a coaches wife?
PE: Oh, I didn’t think it would happen. I thought that idea would go away, like the measles. I thought that I could change his mind about coaching. My dad had quite a lucrative business and wanted to retire. He offered to just give it to LaVell. And he said no. And I thought crazy, crazy, crazy. I really thought I could change him. I couldn’t change him.
DN: What shaped you as a person?
PE: You know, much of what I am I trace back to that little community of Big Piney. That little town I grew up in. There was no wrong side or right side of the tracks. There was wealth, big oil and ranching money in town, and then there were the drunks, a lot of drunks in Big Piney. But those drunks were as welcome as the rich people in anybody’s home. It wasn’t a Mormon environment. Mother and I were the only LDS people — my father didn’t join the church until I was 19 — but I was raised with the finest people in the world.
DN: At heart, then, you’re still a Wyoming girl?
PE: I remember one year our house burned down. I was 5. My mother kicked the window in and got the dog out and her silverware and that was all we had to our name. We had absolutely nothing else. We were homeless. It was about three weeks before Christmas, and Mother and Dad said it was Santa Claus’s turn to visit some other little children that year. So we went over to stay with my grandparents and as we came down the stairs that Christmas morning, oh my gosh that whole living room was filled with the Christmas tree and dolls and toys and everything. I turned around to tell my Mother and Dad and they were both weeping. They didn’t know. The town did it.
DN: When did you start loving football?
PE: Fairly early on I came to the conclusion, well, you better join in or you’re going to be miserable the rest of your life. So I turned into a football nut. I love football. I’m a big fan. Football has been so good to us.
DN: And when did you start loving being a football coach's wife?
PE: When I started to form my own identity. I recognized early on the loneliness of the profession for a wife. You really are kind of isolated. Your husband is gone a lot of the time and typically you move quite a bit. So I felt it was necessary to try to not make it lonely. You need to find your own outlets and form your own friendships, particularly with other wives in the same situation who can relate to you. It’s why I established the national wives association.
DN: How did that come about?
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