I FIRST LAID EYES on Connie in junior high. We lived in the same area of Jacksonville. I went to Highlands Junior High, she went to Ribault, and our schools played each other. I played basketball, and she was a cheerleader. But it wasn't until we both got to Raines High that I saw her daily. There was a certain hallway that she had to use to get to class, and I would go completely out of my way every day to get over there and try to make eye contact with her. I'd walk past her, and then have to sprint to my class to make it right before the bell. One of my friends--Maurice Huntley--knew I was never going to go up to try to talk to her, so he took it upon himself to tell her I wanted to meet her. He didn't tell me until afterward. I was like, "Why'd you do that? Why'd you do that?" Then I said, "What did she say?"
Connie and I met and talked for a while in a courtyard outside the guidance counselor's room at Raines. I was doing the shy brother routine: I pretended I was shy with her. We started dating right after that. We were in 10th grade--she was a majorette for the football team, and I played defensive back. We were real mushy back then, always around each other; if I wasn't at practice, I was with Connie.
I went to college at Clemson, and she transferred there my second year, after one year at Jacksonville University. The night before going back to school our junior year, I asked her to marry me. Her grandfather gave us $100-$59 for my ring and $41 for hers--and we eloped. We went to the justice of the peace. We still have those rings, in a safe. We're married 11 years this year, and we have two kids. Brian Jr. is nine and Brionni is six. Her name is Brian and Connie together.