Crowns, Cleats and a Marshall U Love Story

Every great love story has a great beginning.

They are often born in the little moments that make up our daily lives. They are the moments and life decisions that seem inconsequential at the time but are the basis for a love that can last the ages.

Decisions like what sport to play as a child. What university to attend. And whether to take a chance on someone you meet.

Take, for instance, Brian and Katy Chrisman. The two were thousands of miles apart, one raised in the cities of Pennsylvania and the other in the mountains of Colorado, both brought together by their passion for sport and one university.

Marshall University.

“Marshall University came onto my radar in the fall of 2002 after watching Byron Leftwich and the Herd on several ESPN college football games. Oddly enough, the following spring, Marshall began recruiting me as a potential member of the baseball team,” said Brian Chrisman, who calls Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home. “I had read some general information about Marshall and made an official visit in the spring of 2003. The small town feel and ‘ownership’ the town takes over the school and its traditions sold me immediately.”

“I went on an official visit and loved the small town feel that Huntington offered,” added Katy Chrisman, who came to Marshall from Larkspur, Colorado, just outside of Denver. “The school had an amazing spirit and I really hit it off with the girls that were on the women’s soccer team. I knew I would fit in well with the Herd atmosphere.”

Both Brian and Katy came to Marshall on athletic scholarships in the mid-2000s. Brian was as a member of the Thundering Herd baseball team as a pitcher, while Katy was a team captain with the Marshall women’s soccer team. Both graduated from Marshall in 2007 with degrees in Physical Education.

“I cannot put a price on how much I appreciate having had the opportunity to be a student athlete at Marshall. I was honored to be a team captain on the field, but also balance the academics as well,” Katy said. “I learned how to manage my time and studies, while remembering we were mentors to some of the young athletes in the community. I learned a lot about life and carry it over into my daily schedule today.”

“The opportunity to represent the university on the playing field was a tremendous honor,” Brian added. “Playing under the lights with my best friends against some of the best competition in the country was an experience every high school baseball player envisions – and only one percent ever get to actually have that experience. For that I am forever grateful.”

Of course, degrees and memories are not the only things that the pair walked away with from their time at Marshall.

Early in their university careers, Brian took a chance and asked out a young sophomore that he had met in his athletic circles. And the rest, as they say, is history.

“As athletes, we obviously ran in the same circles and socialized with common people. But in nearly two years at Marshall, we hadn’t talked. I had kept my crush mostly a secret, even from my roommates at the time,” Brian said. “I acquired her number from a mutual friend and called randomly and asked her out. From that day on we have been like glue. And in 16 years, nothing has changed.”

In addition to their time together as student athletes, Katy added that it was the atmosphere at Marshall and the small town feel of Huntington that helped their relationship blossom in those early days.

“This may sound kind of cheesy, but I feel like Marshall embraces the ‘old school’ 50s vibe,” Katy said. “I always thought the atmosphere of our courtship was very genuine and traditional in a lot of ways.”

Today, Brian and Katy Chrisman live in Palm City, Florida, a suburb of West Palm Beach, with their three children, Charlotte, Jack and Eva. Brian is a Financial Advisor for Merrill Lynch after going on to earn his master’s degree in Applied Sciences in 2009 from the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a coach for the Jensen Beach High School baseball team where he continues his love for the sport. Katy, who earned her master’s degree in Healthcare Administration, is a Business Development Executive in the Acute Wound Care field where she works with accounts all over the world.

In keeping with their passion for competition, their oldest daughter, Charlotte, plays travel softball, while their younger children dabble in baseball, soccer and dance.

Away from work and parenthood, Katy has also held several titles on the national pageant scene. She earned the title of Mrs. Pennsylvania United States in 2015 where she competed nationally in Las Vegas and is currently the United States of America’s Mrs. Florida, where she placed in the top 12 in the national competition in Texas earlier this year.

“I won the Mrs. Florida title over the summer and had the opportunity to compete at Nationals in February,” Katy said. “The state titleholder is responsible for promoting their platform and staying involved in their community. I would like to think I am a role model for young ladies and hopefully my own kids. I have gained such a passion for being involved and giving back through pageantry; my hope is that my daughters, and son, see the importance of being involved in your community and see there is a much bigger world than just you out there.”

From her time in the pageant industry, Katy has also put together a foundation called Cleats and Crowns designed to encourage young women to become active and stay active in athletics. “I have seen the benefits of being involved in sports, and the confidence it builds in athletes. It is so important for our young ladies to have a purpose and passion that can help navigate a path through their adolescence,” Katy added.

Of course, being involved in pageants comes with its own set of stereotypes, another thing that she is hoping to break through her platform as a community representative, female athlete and a working mom.

“I competed in my first pageant at the age of 30 and I will be the first to say I was skeptical about entering a pageant and the negative stereotypes surrounding them, but I learned to push myself to be the best wife, mom, and member of my community from pageantry. I feel it is important to be accepting and open to something that may be different,” Katy said. “I have met some truly incredible women who are doctors, pilots, in the armed forces, you name it, and I feel honored to be a part of that elite group. I am so proud and thankful that I went out of my comfort zone and branched out.

“I have grown exponentially, and I encourage others to take risks too. Change is what keeps life interesting.”

From two high school athletes hoping to earn an opportunity to play at the highest levels of collegiate competition, to finding each other, to finding success both personally and professionally, the story of Brian and Katy is another example of how those small life decisions can lead to a whirlwind journey.

The pair are a microcosm of hundreds, if not thousands, of relationships that began at the university and grew thanks to a love, not only for each other, but their alma mater.

And it all started at Marshall.

“To this day, my best friends in life are the people I met at Marshall,” Brian said. “I lucked out and met Kate and instantly her friends became my friends. The experience we shared on and off the field created memories we still laugh about today.

“As my relationship with Kate grew, I also became more engrained in the university and the culture. From football games to staying up late studying in the computer cubes in the library and helping each other with schoolwork. The long phone calls we would share when one of us was in season. Those times are when I felt our relationship grew the most.”

And Brian isn’t alone.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity I had to play four years of Division I soccer while earning a degree. I learned so much about time management, work ethic and becoming a more well-rounded person,” Katy said. “I loved my time at Marshall; I met some of my best friends, and I met Brian. We loved our time in Huntington and wearing that kelly green and white.”