It didn't take me long to realize that Hugh was special, because the more time I spent with him, the closer I became to God.
Having been a Christian for many years, when I met Hugh, I could tell there was something unique about his faith. I had never seen someone our age walk with the Lord like he did. He showed a maturity in his faith way beyond most people our age.
I felt like I could talk to Hugh about anything, because he was such a great listener. In fact, if he hadn't listened to me, I don't know if we would have ever ended up at Ole Miss.
Hugh was an amazing high school football coach, but in many ways he was too good. After two high school championships in football and four in basketball, I told him, you've done all you can do here. You need more. You need to give college football a try.
I don't think Hugh or I will ever forget when we stepped foot on the campus at Lambuth University. The athletic department had no resources, no money, and hadn't won many football games, and yet it seemed perfect for us.
We looked at it like an opportunity to help turn around a struggling program, and Hugh did just that. In the two years we were there, Hugh and the staff won 22 games. It was an amazing time in our life, and we were happy. We had kids in elementary school, and on paper it seemed like leaving high school football was the right choice.
There was just one problem: we weren't getting paid.
In fact, there was a concern that the entire Athletic Department was going under. And then, just when it seemed like the financial situation was looking desperate, two men, Dan Crockett and Steve Brooks came in to rescue the program. If there was an example of anyone living out the verse from Philippians 2:4, which talks about looking out for others before yourself, it was these two men. They funded the salaries for the staff, got equipment for the team, and paid for the team's travel expenses.
Who knows what would have happened had it not been for Dan and Steve, but their generosity got us through those years, and the next year Hugh got his big break by landing the offensive coordinator job at Arkansas State.
In between Lambuth and ASU, however, we had a major decision to make. Three months before taking the job at Jonesboro, Hugh had accepted a job on the staff at San Jose State. It was on the day when we were moving all our stuff to our new house, and the moving truck was on its way to California, that Hugh got the ASU offer.
Jonesboro was only 90 minutes from Hugh's parents, and it was going to be a great fit for us, but Hugh was concerned about leaving his new position at SJSU. That’s when Mike MacIntyre, the Spartans head coach, told Hugh that family comes first. Our family will always be indebted to Mike for that gesture, and he and my husband remain good friends to this day.
Looking back now, it's still amazing how quickly everything happened. After just one year as ASU's offensive coordinator Hugh was promoted to head coach, and after going 10-2 in his first year there, he was suddenly hired as the coach at Ole Miss.
In 2004 he was coaching in high school and just seven years later he was the head coach at an SEC school. Not only had his dream from our honeymoon come to fruition, but we were going back home.
I'll never forget seeing Hugh run out of the tunnel at UM for the first time. He's the football mind, so he remembers trailing at halftime in that season opener, but I remember the tears streaming down my face. I was so proud of my husband.