Our temple marriage has given me a sense of security, knowing the promises we have made to each other as man and wife exceed the bonds of this life. Whether school is difficult or I’m having a hard time, she will always be there to support me. —Jacob Craft
For him, it was love at first sight in a Wyoming parking lot.
For her, true love came after putting him through the nice-guy test.
More than a year later, Jacob and Emily Craft are married and attend the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he is a 6-foot-7 forward for the men’s basketball team and she is a 6-foot-2 center for the women’s team.
The story of how the towering, redheaded Jacob Craft found his tall bride in Wyoming, their courtship and how they ended up in Alaska is an interesting one. Amid the drama of basketball and college life, their relationship has been strengthened by their LDS faith and temple marriage.
“Our temple marriage has given me a sense of security, knowing the promises we have made to each other as man and wife exceed the bonds of this life,” Jacob Craft said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “Whether school is difficult or I’m having a hard time, she will always be there to support me.”
“Knowing you have a special bond that lasts longer than this life means everything,” Emily Craft said.
A Wyoming parking lot
Scoping out the dating scene at Central Wyoming College was far from Jacob Craft’s thoughts when he pulled his car into a Riverton, Wyo., parking lot in the fall of 2012.
Why was he even there?
Craft was there on a basketball scholarship, an impressive feat considering he was cut from the Jordan High School basketball team as a senior.
After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Norway, Craft still believed he could play at the next level. Mentally strengthened by his mission experiences, he invested significant time in workouts at ASAP Training and E3 Basketball in Orem, Utah, in hopes of earning a tryout with a college team.
Once in shape, Craft drew interest from Dixie State, Southern Utah, Weber State and BYU-Hawaii, but their rosters were full. Finally, Central Wyoming, a junior college, offered him a scholarship and Craft gratefully accepted.
“It was a great blessing,” he said. “After I committed, I was a little uneasy about my decision, but through contemplation and prayer, I came to the conclusion it was the right place to go, that something good would arise from it. And that’s where I met my wife.”
As he stepped from his car, the pretty face of a girl with dark hair immediately came into view. Craft experienced one of those time-stopping magical moments.
“The thing that attracted me to her right away was that I could see her above the cars,” Craft said. “When I first saw her, I had the feeling that she was the one. ... I basically fell in love at first sight.”
She was a sophomore, and her name was Emily Smith. She came from a family of tall women and was a member of the school’s women’s basketball team. Over the next few weeks, they saw each other often but didn’t really talk until one day at church.
“On a campus of about 2,000 students, we attended an LDS branch of about 30 people,” Jacob Craft said. “It was easy to find her.”
As Emily Craft remembers it, he first approached her in a class.
“He asked if he could sit by me. I didn’t look up or anything but said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ He made a comment on my shoes,” she said. “That’s when I took notice. Later, at a dinner, I made my move. I went over and talked to him about his mission in Norway.”
“She didn’t know where it (the country) was,” Jacob Craft said.
The ice broken, the two began dating. A few other guys were interested in her, but Jacob Craft “made it clear that wasn’t happening,” he said.
Despite how well things were going, she decided to break up with him after a few weeks.
“He was too nice,” she said. “Usually, guys that nice aren’t looking for a relationship, they are doing it for other reasons. I was pretty sure he was the one for me, but I got scared and dumped him.”
Considering his strong feelings, the breakup rattled Jacob Craft. He went to his parents for advice. A similar scenario had played out before they were married.
“My dad said to stay nice, keep talking to her and you will find the right moment to show that you are still interested,” Jacob Craft said. “He was right. Things worked out.”
Following his father’s advice, Jacob Craft gave her flowers and a stuffed cheetah for her birthday about a month later.
“I figured he still likes me,” said Emily Craft, whose biggest fear was marrying a shorter guy. “He was genuine. He was consistent.”
The following May, they were married in the Draper Utah Temple. Their wedding cake was decorated with a basketball theme.
A couple of Seawolves
Life was good off the court, but not so good on the court.
While participating in a rebound drill, Jacob Craft dislocated his right shoulder. He didn’t want to lose his hard-earned scholarship, so he played on. The injury worsened when he suffered a torn shoulder labrum, ending his season.
UAA men’s basketball coach Rusty Osborne had seen Craft play before the injury. At the end of the season, UAA assistant coach Cameron Turner talked to Jacob Craft about coming to Alaska the following year. Craft asked if there was interest in him coming right away.
Emily Craft’s junior college career was over. She had averaged 8.8 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Rustlers. When it was learned that UAA women’s coach Ryan McCarthy had one scholarship and needed a post player, the Crafts became a package deal.
“I fit the bill,” Emily Craft said.
Life in Alaska
In his first full season since his junior year of high school, Jacob Craft is averaging 2.1 points and a rebound in about five minutes of action per game. The Seawolves are 13-11 overall. Despite losing to Brigham Young University in a 99-68 blowout in a November exhibition game, he fulfilled a dream of playing in the Marriott Center. He is studying pre-law and is used to the Alaskan climate after living in Norway.
Emily Craft is scoring 7.5 points and pulling down 4.8 rebounds in about 18 minutes per game. The women’s team is 14-6. She is studying history.
Both are enjoying their experience, although teammates often remind Jacob Craft that at age 23, he is one of the oldest freshmen in the country.
The Crafts are active in their LDS ward and serve as young single adult representatives. They have had several opportunities to discuss their LDS beliefs. Jacob Craft said he gave a Book of Mormon to a teammate who has since transferred, and Emily Craft once invited some track athletes to church.
While she is the only Mormon on the women’s team, his teammates Brad Mears and Teancum Stafford are both married and returned missionaries.
The biggest challenge for the Crafts is the amount of travel. Despite the separation, they do their best to support one another, especially after a tough loss.
When asked what message they might share with young single adults, the couple offered this advice.
“Be yourself,” Emily Craft said.
“I wasn’t planning on dating anyone when I went to Central," Jacob Craft said. "I had dated several girls after my mission and was over it. Then I wanted to marry the first girl I saw on campus. As long as you are faithful and put your trust in God, things will work out, and in the way you least expect it.”
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