By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky football fans were thrilled when UK beat Penn State in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, but none may have been happier than Griffin Phillips Ryan.
She’s a life-long Kentucky fan, but so are many others. However, few — if any — other UK fans spent their honeymoon at the bowl game like Griffin Phillips Ryan and her husband, Sean, did.
They were married on Saturday night in Danville and then hit the road to Orlando where they arrived just before the game Kentucky won 27-24.
It’s almost a fairy tale story with the happy ending of UK’s 10th win for the first time in her lifetime. She grew up in Lexington and says her father, Hank Phillips, “raised me correctly” as a Kentucky fan.
“We went to UK Fan Day in the years when Kentucky football didn’t win many games,” she said. “When I was a little kid, my brother played soccer. So it was me running football drills in the backyard with my father, who played football at Centre College. He taught me to look the ball in when I caught it.
“I am die-hard UK basketball, too. I am disappointed when Kentucky doesn’t win the national title. But something about football just has more of a place in my heart.”
Griffin and Sean are both ministers — he’s associate pastor at Centenary United Methodist in Danville and she’s associate pastor of youth and young families at First Christian. They met almost three years ago when they were both taking pastoral education classes.
“We were in different groups but he told friends that Griffin seemed interesting and they passed it on to me,” she said. “People in my group worked with people in his group to get him to ask me out. Since that first date on Feb. 28 (2016) we just kept going.”
But a few weeks before the bowl game no wedding date had been set even though — “we have been engaged forever” — in part because of the new pastoral calls that brought them both to Danville. That’s when they decided spontaneously with First Christian already decorated for Christmas, why not just get married — so they did on Dec. 29.
“We didn’t need a giant thing (wedding). Everyone knew we were going to get married, so we just kind of did it really fast,” she said.
She mentioned to her husband that going to the bowl game might be the perfect honeymoon. He took the hint and set everything up — including getting bowl tickets — to surprise her. She says he not only got tickets, but said they were “good seats in the corner on the UK side” which worked out perfect. However, he was obviously all-in on the plan himself.
“I’m very lucky to have a wife who wanted to go to a football game on our honeymoon!,” he wrote on Facebook.
They made a road trip out of the honeymoon with stops on the way to Orlando and back.
“We just wanted everything to stay low key with just the two of us,” she said. “We went out after the game in Orlando and it was so much fun seeing everyone in UK staff at the little bars and restaurants around town and hearing the UK cheers in Florida.”
Griffin did worry a bit when Penn State mounted a furious comeback after being down 27-24 in the third quarter.
“I looked at Sean and told him that even though you never know what might happen and who might win a game, but I thought if UK loses this might not bode well for our marriage,” she laughed and said. “I couldn’t help thinking that because that’s how my mind works.”
He likely was not quite as nervous/anxious as her because even though he was at the bowl game on his honeymoon, he’s from Ohio and grew up an Ohio State fan.
“There were some people I thought I could never marry and probably an Ohio State fan was one of them,” Griffin said. “But it was possible. I learned that. I don’t know what would happen if the two teams played each other. He better root for the Cats.
“Maybe this is why I love being a minister because I have a spot for the underdog in my heart. Think about it. I married a Methodist who was an Ohio State fan and went on my honeymoon to a UK football bowl game. I guess that just shows that we really do love each other a lot, but really, it was a perfect honeymoon for this UK girl.”