Added Spencer: “What drew me to her? Just an unbelievable, caring person. A big heart.”
That comfort level and trust in their commitment has been crucial during the months where actually being together has been a special treat rather than the norm. Yet the fact that both are independent has also helped make the long-distance relationship manageable.
“The fact that we're both very busy with our own lives helps because if one of us was sitting at home with nothing to do, it would be deadly,” Edwards said. “It would be too much time thinking about not being together or, ‘What's he doing?' or, ‘Why isn't he calling me back?'”
Added Spencer: “The key, I think, to the longevity of a relationship is just the mutual respect and just realizing the other person can have a life and some independence and some things that make them happy besides the relationship, which I think is healthy for both people.”
And because their lives have largely been separated, both Spencer and Edwards have picked up new experiences and interests from the other.
Spencer now keeps a yoga book on his desk in his OSU office after Edwards dragged him to classes to help alleviate his back pain. Spencer also asks Edwards tons of questions about horses, showing a genuine curiosity Edwards says the coach has for most topics. And Edwards, who has no children, has gotten a close look at the care, devotion and time commitment it takes to be a parent.
Over the past year or so, there have been dinners at Bricktown and in Washington, D.C. Meet-ups at the Preakness Stakes and in New Jersey. Hikes in Fair Hill, Md. and Scottsdale, Ariz. Baseball games in Stillwater and trips to the top of the Empire State Building in New York.
The important people — Spencer's sons and Edwards' bosses at ESPN, most notably — were kept informed of every step as the relationship blossomed.
Then in February, Spencer popped the question to Edwards on the beach in Florida.
Spencer and Edwards both know the next step on this journey together will be a big adjustment, as they've never spent more than three or four days together at one time.
And both confess the change will likely be more jarring for Edwards.
She will gather many of her belongings and drive from her home in a small, rural town near Fair Hill to Stillwater in mid-August. She will go from living alone, what she's done for most of her adult life, to sharing a house with three men.
Which is why Spencer has been going out of his way to make sure Edwards feels at home in her new town. He put up that fence for Susie. He vacated his bedroom closet to give Edwards more space. A storm shelter is on the way, as well.
“He is so thoughtful and so caring that he's bending over backwards to do whatever he can to make sure that I'm comfortable,” Edwards said. “He wants me to be happy there and he understands that this is a monumental change for me.”
But first, the wedding.
Spencer and Edwards will marry in an intimate, family-only ceremony in Edwards' parents' backyard. Then they will honeymoon at Edwards' family cabin near Jackson Hole in Wyoming, where they plan to relax on the deck and ride horses through the mountains and make an appearance at a cowboy bar where the bar stools are saddles.
“When two people overcome the geographical differences and the jobs and everything,” said MaryAnn Phillips, Jeannine's sister. “To take a big step really makes you think they are very much in love and that they really want to be together. And at that age, you don't underestimate that type of thing.”
Soon after, the craziness of college football season begins for both.
Edwards will continue to travel three or four days a week for games and assignments. She will keep her home in Maryland and spend much of the spring living there while covering ACC basketball. That, she said, will help ease the transition period by keeping her close to her family and friends on the East Coast.
Thus, this unlikely pair and unconventional love story will, essentially, proceed as usual once Spencer and Edwards become husband and wife.
After all, that's become their normal.
“It's just been something that we both wanted, even as unconventional as it was,” Spencer said. “Even though it was a strain, because we'd love to see each other more, there hasn't been any doubt that one day we were going to spend our life together.
“It's just going to be in a different type of way.”