A Miss Louisiana title, 6 years of marriage, a 6 month old baby,4-yr old twins, a 3 year old, philanthropy and “Who Dey” nation is all Mrs. #77 needs in this world. Meet Pro Bowl Bengal Andrew Whitworth’s wife, Melissa.
The first phrase that comes to mind after hearing about Meliss Whitworth is difference maker. Melissa and Andrew Whitworth have taken it upon themselves to touch lives of children and not just their own through The Big Whit 77 Foundation. Funding college scholarships (Whit’s Warriors) and grants for couples wanting to adopt children (Open Arms) are only two of the programs run by this indescribably generous family.
The following is an exclusive interview with NFL Woman of the Month, Mrs. #77. Here we talk about everything starting with her former life in beauty pageants, how she met her husband, her love for Coach Marvin Lewis, and having Bengals TE Tyler Eifert live in her basement for a year as the Whitworth’s 5th son. In honor of Mothers Day, Pro Player Insiders uncovers Melissa passion for motherhood.
Pro Player Insiders: Who Dey, Mrs. #77!
PPI: We know you love your Bengals but more importantly your hubby and your babies. What have been some Whitworth family highlights this offseason? We are guessing having your 4th baby!?
MW: We actually had Katherine during football season last year. That was quite an adjustment but we’ve been at this football thing for a while so we managed pretty well. Poor Andrew had been up with me all night at the hospital and I had the baby at 5am. We were both still in recovery when he kissed me and said, “gotta go to work.” I completely understood. We were fine and he had a job to do. This offseason we spent a lot of time in Louisiana with family and friends but we also went to Disney for the first time, went to Atlanta for a dear friend (and teammates) wedding, and went to the beach. It has been a great offseason.
PPI: You spend half of your year in Cincinnati and the rest in Louisiana. How is that for your family and your kids to move mid year?
MW: We are so blessed that our kids are so well adjusted. The older three are basically like triplets so they take really good care of one another and I think that makes it easier on them. I used to hate the back and forth but now I love it. It truly gives us the best of both worlds. We absolutely love Cincinnati … the people, schools, food, REDS! But we love being home with family too especially while our kids are young.
PPI: In addition, to putting your family first we hear you were Miss Louisiana (Melissa Clark)? How did you get into pageants? Wow, Andrew lucked out.
MW: Well, my pageant days are far behind me. I will always support the Miss Louisiana and Miss America organizations because I’ve witnessed how instrumental they can be in developing young women into strong leaders of our society. To me, It’s never been about pretty dresses and being on stage, it’s truly about the betterment of young women. When Andrew and I first met, I was working as an evening news anchor in his hometown. I absolutely loved my job and miss it every day but I am fully committed to being the best wife and mother I can be while Andrew continues to play football. Each phase of life is a only a “season”. Hopefully, one day I’ll be in a position where I can go back to work.
PPI: Coach Marvin Lewis is one of swaggiest, most passionate coaches in the NFL. What are your thoughts on his contract renewal and in your 9 years there have you had any interactions with him?
MW: We love Marvin. He has supported both Andrew, myself, and our family without fail for 10 years now. Anyone who knows me knows I am fiercely loyal. I feel the same way about Marvin. He and Peggy deserve the extension he recently signed. They are good people, and I can assure you, no one will talk bad about him in my presence. Ever.
PPI: Was your family a part of the Hard Knocks filming? What was that experience like?
MW: We were actually a part of filming both seasons of hard knocks. The first one, we were newly married and didn’t have any kids. The second one, we had 3 under 2. It was quite a change in just a few short years. I enjoyed Hardknocks. I think it gives the fans a real look inside what football really is and how training camp works.
PPI: The Bengals were forced to earn their way into the postseason last year and will do it again in 2015 with 4 primetime games. What are your hoped for the Bengals 2015-’16 season?
MW: Obviously, my hope is that we finally win a super bowl. That would be amazing! I’ve been here through some of the best and worst seasons the Bengals have had. I’ve watched my husband help turn this team around in more ways than one. We went through something pretty tough in 2011 when Carson Palmer decided not to return as our quarterback. There are no hard feelings there. He needed to do what was right for him and his family but it definitely left our team without a leader. Andrew stepped up and took over that role and help hold the team together after that. We haven’t missed the playoffs since…
PPI: Andrew has been to the Pro Bowl and is entering his tenth season. With that being said you have to have a favorite moment in his career thus far. Please Tell.
MW: YES! We played Pittsburg in 2010 and he actually caught a touchdown pass. I was at home watching the game extremely pregnant with the twins and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It was also his birthday!
PPI: Tell us about what it means to be a Bengals wife and knowing your husband has so many Who Dey fans? What was your most enjoyable part of being part of the organization?
MW: I don’t necessarily feel like I have a “role” as a Bengals wife. I do however always try to reach out to the new wives or girlfriends on the team. I’ll help them find a place to live, show them where to park at games and where to sit, etc. I’ve been the new girl before and it can be really intimidating and scary. I don’t want anyone new who comes in to feel that way. Andrew and I both love to welcome the new players and their families each year. We’ve had several players live with us for a period of time. I never thought I’d get Tyler Eifert out of my basement :). But the entire community of Cincinnati has embraced Andrew in a way that is really special. We have a deep appreciation and love for the Bengals fans and this community.
PPI: What does “Who Dey” even mean ?
MW: Absolutely, no idea.
Woman of the Month and Community Service…
PPI: We want to get to know you. Describe yourself in one sentence.
MW: I am a child of God, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
PPI: Tell me a little about your passions or projects you are working on outside of being a mom?
MW: My biggest passion right now is my children. I want to raise them to know the Lord at a young age and follow Him all the days of their life. I want to honor and respect my husband in everything I do and say. I also work really hard on our Foundation back home where we give scholarships to high school seniors who show leadership qualities. We also give grants to families wanting to adopt children. Andrew and I are passionate about helping develop young leaders and helping families fulfill their dream of adopting.
PPI: A couple years back you did something astounding for a family of Jaleel Gipson. What was the thought process behind funding the funeral expenses of the 16-year-old of Farmerville, LA, who passed away after suffering fractured vertebrae during an Oklahoma Drill at a spring football practice?
MW: I will never forget where I was standing when Andrew and I heard about Jaleel. I watched my husband cry for the first time in a long time. He said, “Melissa, he was someones baby.” He immediately called the Farmerville coach and asked what we could do. When we were told the funeral expenses were too much for the family to pay for we just said, “send us the bill”. That was never intended to be public. My understanding is Jaleel’s mother posted something on Facebook thanking us and that’s how it became public.
PPI: Your passion for philanthropy runs deep. Tell us more about the families you work with work in the community?
MW: June Carter Cash once said ,”I just want to matter.” That’s sort of my life’s motto. I want to do things that matter. Andrew and I both try to live our lives intentionally. We want to support the communities where we grew up. We also want to support the people of Cincinnati who have always been so good to us.
PPI: Tell me about the role faith has played in your life.
MW: Faith is the basis of which I live my life. Life isn’t always easy and God promises us “in this life there will be trouble”. He also promises us He will bless us if we are living His will for our lives. Right now we are going through a hard time where Andrews career is concerned. We honestly don’t know what the next step is or what will happen next. I feel like God is trying to tell us again to trust in Him. It’s a daily struggle to try and not take control of a situation and do it the way I want it done. Instead, we are trying to “be still” and allow God to work through us in this process.
PPI: Do the Bengals have team bible study? Who attends and leads it?
MW: they do. Recently, the Bengals got a new Chaplin. LaMorris and Megan Crawford. They do a phenomenal job of supporting everyone on the team. We have a couples bible study at Andy and Jordan Daltons house once a week during the season and also a women’s bible study on Wednesday mornings. Those two groups have meant so much to us. When we are struggling with something, it’s amazing to see how they will rally behind us. We are super grateful for the way they support us.
PPI: What bible verse does the Whitworth family love and live by?
MW: Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Your husband and Football…
PPI: How did you meet Mr. Andrew Whitworth? We need details!
MW: We met through mutual friends. I was a news anchor and he had never watched the news. He was a football player and I had never heard of the Cincinnati Bengals! We knew within the first month of dating that we would get married. We actually got married almost a year to the day that we met.
PPI: How many years have you been married? After that many years of marriage, you must tell us one thing people need to know about Andrew? Doesn’t he like to fight…teasing. All we know is he is a tough guy!
MW: We’ve been married 6 and a half years. A funny thing about Andrew is he is a FANTASTIC dancer! Seriously, he would win dancing with the stars. He’s so good and It cracks me up when he dances. Probably the main thing I admire about my husband is he always fights for the underdog. He never wants anyone to feel left out and always tries to include everyone.
PPI: We found out that you live down the street from one of our favorite Buffalo Bill’s Families Kyle and Jill Williams. What is your relationship like? What can we find your families doing this offseason?
MW: we love Kyle and Jill. Sometimes I think I need a bracelet that says “What would Jill do?” She’s such an amazing mom and wife. It’s awesome to watch someone who leads an almost identical life as you do it so well. She inspires me and I think the world of her. Kyle and Andrew play a lot of golf together. They support one another in football and in life. It’s a unique relationship.
“Who Dey” CinciLOVE…
PPI: You live in Cincinnati during the season so we have to hit you with the PPI Cincinnati FIRE 5:
1. Best Restaurant?This is SO hard because we have so many great places to eat. I’ll give you our top 3… Boca, The Precinct and Knotty Pine
2. Favorite place to shop or take kids? Nordstrom! It’s SO nice to have a nice department store down the street. But I also love my super target. It’s amazing. We take the kids to the park down the street a lot and to the zoo and aquarium.
3. Go to tourist attraction for your visitors? Everyone has to go to a Reds game! It’s a great experience.
4. Favorite current Bengals player, besides Andrew? Tyler Eifert. He lived with us for over a year. My kids love him and he’s like my 5th kid.
5. Best thing about Bengals fans? Bengals fans have been through a lot over the years. I just appreciate them loving us and supporting us unconditionally. Of course there will be games where Andrew doesn’t play great (although they are few and far between thank God) but even after those times, fans really tend to rally around him because they know what he’s given to this organization and what he means to the team.
Being an NFL wife…
PPI: Has there been a fellow NFL wife you have looked up to or bonded with. If so, who? Tell me about her.
MW: Yes, when Andrew and I first got married, Nate Livings was starting his 4th year in the NFL. I had absolutely NO idea what was going on. Dianne Livings (her husband Nate was the left guard at the time) really took me under her wing. She showed me the ropes. I’ll always be grateful to her for that and it makes me want to return the favor to the new girls who come in now.
PPI: Is there a wife or family on the Bengals you find yourself around a lot? We know about the Tuesday “Day off” couples dinners in the NFL, who do you guys go with?
MW: We have a strong group of friends here who we spend time with. I sit with Jessica Hall (Leon Halls wife) at all the games and have for the past 5 years. We love them. We spend a lot of time with Clint and Kelly Boling, Andy and JJ Dalton, Mike and Emily Nugent, and Rex and Danielle Burkhead and Kevin and Sara Zeitler.
PPI: Your children are a huge part of your life. Tell us a couple words to describe each of them. Which is the biggest Bengals fan?
MW: They are just now starting to understand what daddy does.
Sarah is always terrified when he is on the bottom of a pile of gets knocked down. I think watching football stresses her out :).
Drew is his daddy’s boy. He watches intently for most of the game. He can pick out Andrew and knows where he is on the field.
Michael is just a clown. He likes to scream “who dey” and his favorite part of the game is when we score a touchdown. This is just so he can sing the “who dey” cheer.
Katherine hasn’t been to a game yet.
PPI: What is the biggest stereotype about NFL wives that you have found to be “not true”?
MW: I don’t really know of any stereotypes really. I didn’t know what to expect. We are all put in this sort-of vacuum and told we all have to be friends. That’s not always going to happen. People will naturally have more in common with one person or another and that’s ok. I have built some life long friendships throughout this time in the NFL and I’m grateful for those.
PPI: What advice would you give other women about balancing their lives? Or what is your mantra to live by to leave with fans?
MW: Everything in life is about balance. Andrew and I have an agreement during football season that he just concentrates on football and I do all the house stuff, kids stuff, etc. I know how grueling a season is on his body and mind so I don’t want him to walk into chaos or have more on his plate than he can handle. During football season, he plays football. In the offseason, he gets to take the kids to school and he helps me around the house more. That arrangement works for us and he’s had a long successful career. All I try to do is provide an environment where he can be the best football player and teammate he can be.
It’s quite evident this NFL Woman to is the Month has garnered quite the reputation as an upstanding member of her community. Stay tuned to join the blessings Melissa and her family strive to bring to Louisiana and Who Dey Nation.
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