Dan and Megan Mullen, A Football Love Story
Delivered to TVs across Ohio, 25-year-old Megan West was the weekend sports anchor for the NBC affiliate in Toledo, bright-eyed, blonde-haired and full of energy as she was beginning a career in sports broadcasting.
Young Megan got the email, and because it was a station address, so did her director, who read the entire thing to the newsroom with everyone laughing as he went. Megan was somewhere between embarrassment and laughter of her own.
Dan’s excuse was that he worked for one of the local teams and he thought it would be good for them to get lunch and get to know each other, just one professional to another.
It was a nice thought, even if the intent was obvious. But Megan didn’t respond.
A week went by, with the entertaining incident nearly been forgotten and then Megan got another message at the station.
It was mostly the same email, but with a new ending.
“I’M NOT A STALKER! Please have the common courtesy to respond to this email, it would be RUDE not to.”
And if that doesn’t sweep a woman off her feet, what will?
“My director kept telling me, ‘Just go to lunch with the guy, just go,’” Megan remembered. “I said absolutely not and kept telling him no, but finally I gave in. So I called the football office over there and told this guy I’d go to lunch with him.
“And then Dan says, ‘No, that’s OK. We’ll just get dinner tonight instead.’ I’m thinking, ‘Who the heck is this guy? I offered lunch and he’s taking dinner.’”
But, she agreed to meet him at a nice Mexican restaurant in Toledo.
And as she waited, she realized she had no clue what the mystery man looked like. She had never heard of him, never looked him up, didn’t even think he might be important enough to have his picture in the football program.
“All the sudden I turned around and this guy walked in the door,” she said. “He had the smile and the dimples … I knew I was in trouble. He took my breath away.”
So, they had a nice dinner. But that was May, and they didn’t see each other again all summer, despite Dan’s best efforts.
“He said he was gonna call me every day until I agreed to go out again,” Megan said with a bit of an exasperated smile. “He always gets what he wants.”
And so he called. And called. And kept calling.
And finally, she agreed to go out with him again. And again after that. Though by then, the football season had started and Dan, under head coach Urban Meyer was in the middle of what would turn out to be launching point of his career.
Dan and Megan’s courtship continued as well as it could under time constraints with one a TV anchor and the other a college football coach.
Until Dan called her one night at the end of the season.
“Can you come over? We need to talk.”
“What job did you guys get,” she asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he responded.
Megan arrived and found a living room full of boxes, all of Dan’s belongings packed up and ready to go. They had taken the job at Utah.
“He moves, and I never thought I’d see him again,” she said. The first and only man to take her breath away was seemingly gone. “But he kept calling.”
In fact, he even bought her a plane ticket to come visit for New Year’s.
When she left, she walked out of Dan’s office, and the last person she saw was Meyer.
“When you are you getting a job and moving here?” he asked.
“I just laughed, like, I’m 25. I can’t get a job in a market as big as Salt Lake City,” Megan said.
The next day, January 3, at 4:36 p.m., she recalls, she pulled up a jobs board online. A sports anchor job for a Salt Lake City station had opened.
Naturally, she applied.
And they called within 30 minutes of seeing her video.
“But I wouldn’t have been able to start for five months,” she said. “But for some reason, they didn’t mind waiting. It turns out, they had a staff full of men and brunettes, and they needed a blonde female. So they waited and I got the job.”
Reunited, Dan and Megan began to get serious.
Though, like any couple, there came a point where the love they had spent long growing was in jeopardy.
“We actually broke up for a little while,” Dan recalled, “and that’s when I knew. I knew that I didn’t want to not have her in my life. It kind of hits you at that point, you know this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.”
So Dan, persistent as always, won her back.
As their love grew, as they spent more and more time with each other, knowing every day they were with their someone, it became more and more clear what their future together held.
At one point, Dan recalled, they drove to Las Vegas and back for the wedding of a friend. Six hours each way, they had a lot of time to talk. They knew it was coming soon.
Megan, Dan found out, then booked her church and reception hall for the following summer, without a ring in hand or the question being asked.
“I was told then that she was getting married next July 4,” Dan said. “It might be to me, it might be to somebody else, but everything was booked. It was on top of Mt Washington in Pittsburgh, a premier place.”
So, at some point that following season, Dan picked out the ring.
As he waited for the right moment, the Utes cruised, building toward an undefeated season and a chance to be the first non-automatic qualifier to play in a BCS game.
Their final game of the season was the Holy War, Utah vs. BYU, with the BCS on the line.
“The Holy War. That is the game,” Dan said. “We were undefeated. College Gameday was there. If we won, we’d be the first non-BCS team to be able to go bust the BCS. It was a pretty big deal.”
Despite all the pressure and excitement, Dan took Megan to their favorite restaurants, a place called Tuscany, just three days before the big game.
“One of the best restaurants, I think, in the world,” he said. “It’s a spectacular place, right at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City.”
“It’s a Tuscan cottage,” Megan described, “with trees growing through it, twinkling lights in the trees, every dining room has a fireplace.”
“I figured you can’t just … you gotta do something nice and you want it to be a little bit of a surprise,” Dan explained.
“I knew it was coming that night,” Megan deadpanned.
But Dan still managed to surprise her.
“We go, and we order the oysters asiago for an appetizer,” he said. “I’ve got the ring in my pocket, and you’re trying to figure out exactly how you’re gonna do this. I barely touched the appetizer. I was nervous. It was hard to eat. So at that point I decided – I got the pork chop there, which is one of my favorite dishes. “
“Normally you’d probably wait until after dinner to propose, but I wasn’t gonna enjoy my pork chop. I didn’t want to waste the pork chop. You know, Tuscany is an expensive place. And it’s a good pork chop. So I proposed in between appetizer and dinner, which really caught her off guard, because she kind of started arguing with me during the proposal because of all the nice things I was saying about her.”
“I thought we were having this conversation,” Megan continued, “then two seconds later he’s down on one knee and here’s this moment in my life that I totally knew was going to happen that night, and I was completely unprepared for it. He had to ask three times because I couldn’t believe it was happening. I mean, I blink and he’s on one knee.”
Dan got his girl. And his pork chop.
“I don’t think I ate a bite after that,” Megan said with a laugh. “I was just looking at the ring all night.”
Three days later, Utah beat BYU. They had done it. They busted the BCS and completed the only undefeated season Dan has ever had.
And just a few weeks prior, Dan’s favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, had broken the Curse of the Bambino, an agonizing 86-year drought of World Series titles.
“That was a good year,” he said.
And at the end of it, he and Meyer were hired to take over at Florida.
Now engaged, Megan would of course be moving with him, but sadly, it meant the end of her broadcast career.
“At that point, it would have been just too big of a conflict of interest,” she said.
But again, fate found her a job.
While in Gainesville, her agent called and asked her what her dream job would be.
A golfer her whole life, Megan told him what he already knew: it would be a dream come true to be an anchor for the Golf Channel, having spent her entire life around the sport.
“They need somebody to fill in for four days,” her agent told her. “Can you do it?”
Of course she could. And she did. Even though it was the week before her July 4 wedding.
After the fill-in broadcast and the ensuing nuptials, as her and Dan waited in the airport for their flight to the honeymoon in Greece, she got another call. The Golf Channel wanted her full time.
So as Dan ran Florida’s offense, she commuted 260 miles a day to the studio from their house in Gainesville. She had told them yes, of course.
Ahead of one weekend, Megan asked her bosses if she could have a few days off to travel with the football team for a game. Usually, Megan stayed local, but as a compromise to give her an extended weekend, they sent her to a U.S. Women’s mid-amateur at a place called Old Waverly in West Point, Mississippi.
“I thought it was the most beautiful golf club in the south,” she said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s just a different world.”
On the last night of her four-day stay, her and the producer took the 10-minute drive to Starkville. Megan’s parents had always told her to visit any campus she can if she gets the chance, plus she wanted a good steak.
Someone recommended Harvey’s, and so they went.
The steak was great, so was the town. Megan returned to Florida, told Dan it was nice, and never thought about it again.
Until nearly three years later, when Dan got a call from Mississippi State, who needed a new football coach. They had offered him the job.
“He calls me at 1:30 in the morning, December 9,” Megan recalled. “He was freakin’ out.”
“I’ve got this job,” Dan told her. “Megan, I’ve got it. What do we do?”
“What do you mean what do we do?”
“We can’t see it. We can’t see the facility, we can’t see the town, we can’t see the program, we can’t even fly over the school. We have to go completely site unseen.”
“Dan, I’ve been to Starkville.”
“You haven’t been to Starkville. It’s one of two SEC schools we never played on the road.”
“Dan, do you remember when I told you I had to cover that mid-amateur and I told you I went to Old Waverly and I said it was second in beauty to Augusta National?”
“Yeah, what’s your point, what’s your point?”
“Dan, it’s 10 minutes away from Starkville.”
“So what do I do?”
“Take the job. We’ll get to golf at Old Waverly.”
So he took it, and a short time later he and eight-month pregnant Megan moved to Starkville.
He trusted her enough to go somewhere he’d never been, and she was confident enough in Starkville to leave a place they did love, knowing she would have a new doctor, a new hospital and a new house to move into in her final weeks of pregnancy.
“We had to take a private plane here,” Dan said laughing. “She couldn’t fly on a regular plane. She was too pregnant.”
Five years later, the couple is the happiest they’ve ever been, two kids now running around next to their dog Heisman.
When she watches him work, talk or teach, she can’t help but smile at the man she respects more than any other.
And as he moves, observes, speaks and coaches, he can’t help himself to steal a glance at the love of his life, giving her a quick smile, an imperceptible wink or a brush of the nose, his secret way of telling her hey.
The two being together at all probably never should have happened, with the amount of obstacles and unlikely happenings bringing them where they are now.
But, through moves, funny emails and stressful jobs, their love didn’t merely survive. It flourished, the two running side-by-side as they took on life together, trusting and believing in each other every step of the journey.
“You take all these insignificant moments in life, and looking back, they mean so much more,” Megan said as she looked up at her husband reviewing film at his office desk. “So much good came into it our lives when you look back on it.
“If I wouldn’t have come here for that week, this story would be totally different. I 100 percent can tell you that happened so we can be here today. I used to think that I worked at the Golf Channel because it was my dream job. It wasn’t. It was so that when that phone call came in, we’d come here.”