September 7, 2013

On this particularly sunny and hot Saturday, Dave and I headed to Berkeley to see Cal take on Portland State. This was typical — our falls are always consumed with college football. This season we had a brand new head coach, a recently renovated stadium, and a whole lot of hope for our team. Go bears!

We played Portland State seven years earlier on September 16, 2006 under very different circumstances. Cal started with a #12 ranking, went 10–3, and finished the season ranked #14 under Coach Tedford. Dave and I were in our third year of college. I was in a 4+ year, tumultuous, long-distance relationship with a guy[1] from Lodi and Dave had just gotten out of a very similar situation with a gal from Maine. We were acquaintances, nothing more.[2]

At that 2006 game, there wasn’t enough room where my friends were standing, so I ended up a couple of rows back next to Dave and his fraternity brothers. Dave’s fraternity had the endearing and extremely reckless tradition of mercilessly dogpiling every time Cal scored a TD. No one was spared. Thankfully, Dave protected me from the onslaught. September 16, 2006 was the day I started paying attention.[3]

A terribly unflattering photo of me next to handsome baby Dave that day.

Me next to handsome baby-Dave that day.

Fast forward to Cal vs. Portland State 2013. At a Haas business school happy hour, Dave won a tour of the swanky University Club at Memorial Stadium. We skipped pre-game bar hopping with friends to check out this exclusive area that we’d otherwise probably never visit. My excitement really set in when I noticed Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour riding the elevator up with us. Two lovely women, Henrriette and Whitney, gave us a quick tour and then left us alone to appreciate the gorgeous views.

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We wanted to get some photos of us in this breathtaking setting, but because our tour started a couple of hours before kickoff, there weren’t many people around; no one was out on the deck with us. We set up Dave’s phone on a nearby table to see if we could get anything decent with the self-timer. Then this happened.

Turns out Dave hadn’t won a tour at all. He had spent months preparing for this moment and worked some magic, one small piece of which is this heartwearming letter to Coach Sonny Dykes:

Dear Coach Dykes,

The date was September 16th, 2006. It was a beautiful, sun splashed fall day in Berkeley, the kind of day I am sure you will come to cherish. Cal was playing Portland State. I had ducked out from studying to enjoy the game when some nearby students got a bit rowdy. I protected a young lady from the pushing, and we struck up a conversation. It was the start to our love story and I’m excited to say that this fall I plan to propose to her.

Cal, and in particular Cal Football, has been a huge part of our lives from the day we set foot on campus. We have been loyal season ticket holders since graduation and actively recruit our friends to join us (our group is up to 12 this year!). I was recently accepted into the Haas MBA program and it is my dream to eventually settle in Berkeley and raise our family there. I’d like to do something special for her for my proposal.

I was hoping to propose to her on the University Club balcony before a game, but access is limited to those with special passes. Coach Dykes, I realize you are a busy man, but if there is any way you are able to help with pregame access passes I would be extraordinarily grateful. I would be able to create our first engagement memory with the most beautiful backdrop I can imagine.

I am proud that our head coach has actively embraced the community, from open practices to living ten minutes from campus. After a down year it feels like the Cal community is once again excited about football. You have certainly started your Cal story on the right foot. I hope to add another chapter to our own Cal story, and with your help, I can make it an unforgettable one.

Thank you in advance, best of luck in the upcoming season, and Go Bears!

Best regards,

Dave Harrison Smith


The proposal came as a huge surprise for a couple of reasons. To be completely honest, we hadn’t been in the best place as a couple — I had started a new job two months prior and he was struggling to balance a full-time job with business school. We were busy and stressed, and we weren’t making enough time for each other. And believe it or not, we hadn’t really discussed marriage in our nearly seven years together. Sure, we both knew it would likely happen, but neither of us were in any hurry (and we still aren’t!).

But I’m very happy because I love this man dearly. I can’t thank Dave enough for bearing with me and my many faults. I know we’ll overcome every challenge together because he’s strong and courageous in every way that I’m not. Here’s to love, growth, and countless adventures.

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Oh, Cal squeaked out a victory on the day we got engaged: 37-30. It was our only win of the entire season… whew.

Poem written for us by San Francisco poet, Silvi Alcivar.

Poem written for us by San Francisco poet, Silvi Alcivar.

[1] Although we aren’t really in touch any more, I have to say he was a great guy — we just weren’t great together.

[2] Embarrassingly enough, I had introduced myself to Dave on three separate occasions at his frat house. He responded to my third “Hi, I’m Jenny!” with a short and effective “I know. We’ve met.” Needless to say, I felt like a jackass, but bless his heart for forgiving me.

[3] But we didn’t start dating until January 20, 2007.

13 thoughts on “September 7, 2013

  1. We so enjoyed your sharing with us his very special time in your lives. Thank you so much. Loved the slide show too…some terrific pictures, many being moments to remember. Love you both, and again, congratulations to you both.

    Love, Bob & Marti

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