BOWLING GREEN - Latasha Briggs saw the defensive end pursuing and delayed his advancement - only to later let him through. Mandi Lichtensteiger agitated an offensive lineman to the point he no longer wanted to block her.
Consequently, two of Bowling Green State University's best football players, now remove wedding rings before practice.
Diyral and Latasha Briggs married April 2 of this year, and the Lichtensteigers, Mandi and Kory, tied the knot a day later in 2004.
Kory and Diyral are BGSU's only married players.
"Maybe there's some significance with them being two of the best players and them taking care of business with their ladies," Latasha Briggs said. "Behind every strong man is a strong woman, so maybe that's what it is."
Briggs, a fourth-year junior from Mount Healthy, Ohio, might be the Falcons' best defensive player. He started the final six games of 2006 and finished the year with 69 tackles, including 10.5 for loss. His seven sacks were second-most on the team.
Lichtensteiger, a center and fifth-year senior captain, is BGSU's most accomplished player. Three times he has been named to an All-Mid-American Conference team and last week the Lombardi Award committee included Lichtensteiger on its watch list as one of the nation's best lineman.
Both Briggs' and Lichtensteiger's resumes are growing, and so too are their families. The Lichtensteigers' son, Ayden, turned 3 in June, and Latasha Briggs is expected to give birth to a girl in November.
"You can say that we're kind of a distraction to him, but we're not really," Mandi Lichtensteiger said. "He is home on Friday and Saturday nights. He stays out of trouble because he wants to stay home with us. It's helped him stay very level headed and out of getting into trouble."
For Briggs, wrapping up his future wife was just as challenging as grounding a quarterback. He met Latasha during their freshman year through BGSU
offensive lineman Brandon Mack and his then girlfriend, who was also Latasha's best friend.
"The thing I find him the most serious about is his drive to graduate," Latasha said. "When we first started dating I kind of noticed that he didn't care about his academics. I would find myself calling him, checking up on if he was going to class. I think I might have played a part supporting him, but his drive to stay eligible to play is something he accumulated on his own."
Turned out they had much in common. Latasha liked that she could be her corny self around Briggs, who by all accounts is a jokester and one of the most personable players on the team. But it wasn't all jokes and games. Latasha also kept after Diyral about his grades, which were an issue early in his career but have since been improving. Diyral kept his silly side, but now academics, football and his home life have taken precedence over all else.
Added Mack: "I didn't think they would get married. I just thought they would be boyfriend/girlfriend. But they love each other and all I see is happiness when I'm around them."
"He likes to say that, but I think he was eyeing me before Brandon Mack even told him he knew me," Latasha said. "Brandon Mack one day said, 'My boy wants to get your number,' and I'm thinking, he can ask me himself. But I knew who he was talking about and I kind of liked him so I gave it to him. He called me and I kind of screened his phone call and sent him to my voice mail just to feel him out. And then I ended up calling him a couple of days later."
Diyral acknowledges his wife's influence on his improvement academically.
"Without her, honestly I would say I wouldn't be here," Diyral said.
Mandi Lichtensteiger won over her husband, not by laughing with him, but by laughing at him.
Classmates since they were in kindergarten, Kory and Mandi met long before they were capable of expressing feelings of love. They began dating the summer entering their sophomore year at Crestview.
"I flirted with him in algebra class," Mandi said. "I sat beside him so I was always picking at him or making fun of him."
Their relationship survived even when they chose to attend rival colleges. But Mandi left the University of Toledo after one semester and the couple married months later in their hometown of Van Wert.
"He's a great role model for the players," BGSU coach Gregg Brandon said. "He's playing Division I football, holding a 3.5 GPA and raising a child. He's really a special guy."
Though different than one might expect of a guy who will likely be playing in the NFL a year from now.
Unlike many of his teammates, including Briggs, Lichtensteiger doesn't play video games. He rarely watches NFL games on TV and when he does it's only to check up on his former Falcon teammates. Strangely enough, Lichtensteiger is probably the third-biggest football fan in his own home.
Mandi follows the New England Patriots, and Ayden likes to dress in his Pittsburgh Steelers uniform that Kory's parents bought him for Christmas. Already weighing 48 pounds, Ayden has inherited his father's passion to play football.
"He would rather have me get down on my knees and tackle me than throw the football around, so I think he's going to like to hit," Kory said.
The Briggs are still adapting to married life.
On Monday, the first day of the semester, they walked into the same classroom not knowing they were enrolled in the same course. And when the instructor took role call, both Latasha and Diyral were taken aback when "Briggs" was announced twice in a row.
The next phase of their relationship is parenthood.
Briggs smiles widely when he discusses his unborn daughter, Liliana, whose name is tattooed on his shoulder.
"I can't wait for my daughter," he said. "Hopefully she's not born during a game."
Liliana is due to arrive Nov. 11. The Falcons play an evening game at Eastern Michigan on Nov. 9.
Diyral may be forced to check on his wife from Ypsilanti.
This time, Latasha won't screen his call.
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