20 Toes In
Coach Kevin Ollie knows how to motivate. Phrases such as “Ten toes in, not five” or “We take the stairs, escalators are for cowards” highlight how his teams need to be fully committed and dedicated.
I am a firm believer that above all else, UConn taught Jillian, my fiancée, and I that character is more important than reputation, hard work is more fulfilling than taking the easy road, and that full commitment to a shared goal is the pathway to overall success.
Jillian and I became close friends early in our freshman year at my fraternity’s semi-formal. We were both there with other people, but I basically ignored my date completely to hang out with her all night. While we didn’t quite hit it off that night, romantically, we became close friends and continued to hang out, study together and attend the same events. But, in typical teenage fashion, I liked her, she didn’t like me, and we stopped talking for a while. Eventually, we reconnected though by that time I had given up on being more than friends. She invited me to her semi-formal and we went as “friends,” and the rest is history. After that night, our friendship turned into an awkward college relationship held up on the bedrock of Ted’s pizza, dates to the Eastbrook Mall movie theater and social events at the Boat House.
Then things got tough. My mom found out she had cancer and I was scared for her life. I knew I had to be strong for my mom because no matter what it was that I was going through, she was going through worse. I didn’t know how to handle everything and I worried my relationship with Jill was going to suffer. Jillian and I talked about it a lot and decided that while it would be hard, there was no reason we couldn’t make it through to the other side. Jillian stepped up when I needed her most, and that is when our relationship became more than just a “college thing” and we started to think towards the future. My mom started doing better and things were looking positive.
In our senior year, my contact in the UConn College Republican chapter told me about an opportunity to work in Arizona for the 2012 presidential elections. I was offered the position and could not pass it up. Jillian wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of me leaving for half the year but supported my decision—and it became one that changed my life and still affects my career, five years later. This is another example of the commitment and trust Jillian bestowed upon me that fortified my feelings towards her. Not many people would have been as understanding of their 21 year old boyfriend moving away for 6 months, but she did.
I came back and before we knew it, we were turning the tassels at commencement. Jill went off to pursue her master’s degree in Boston and I went to D.C. to continue my career in politics. That was the beginning of two of the longest years of our relationship, as we were now that couple who were trying to make a long-distance relationship work. We proved the naysayers wrong and at the end of her program, Jillian moved down to D.C.
That was in 2015—and we have now been living together for almost three years, dating for more than seven and have been engaged for just a few short months.
Just like the UConn Men’s Basketball program, Jillian and I didn’t have it easy nor did we have the perfect pathway to success. We relied on each other when things got hard, trusted each other when we needed to the most and made sure that above all else, we were fully committed to each other and our shared goals.
UConn brought us together, showed us how to stay together and will be a part of us, together, for the rest of our lives.
Alumni Author: Joseph Goetz ’13 (CLAS)