Landry Jones and Whitney Hand didn’t start their relationship on the set of their latest Hollywood movie, don’t live on a chateau in France and haven’t adopted children from around the world.
But in Norman, OK, Jones and Hand – who were engaged in June – are a power couple that would make Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie seem like members of the B-List.
Jones is the star quarterback for the Sooners, a Heisman Trophy candidate with an NFL future at the helm of the nation’s No. 1 team. For her part, Hand is a standout shooting guard on OU’s women’s basketball team, a national power that made the Final Four in both 2009 and 2010. Both are juniors.
“I’ve never been like, ‘Oh, I want to date the quarterback.’ You know?” Hand told the Tulsa World in May. “It just kind of happened. We both were kind of nobodies when we started dating. I guess we’ve kind of grown together and it’s been really fun.”
Jones, 22, and Hand, 21, met as freshmen at an Oklahoma dorm, Bud Wilkinson Hall, in 2008. The Tulsa World said that they began dating casually at first before becoming a couple in January of 2009.
Both have gone through some hard times since coming to Norman but have said that their relationship has been a blessing; both credit their faith and religion as foundations.
However, Jones admits to struggling with depression after his arrival at Oklahoma, where he wasn’t the star quarterback right off the bat. He was a caddy for Heisman winner Sam Bradford in 2008 before taking over for the injured star in 2009.
According to the Christian Post last year, Jones turned to “alcohol and girls,” presumably as a way of restoring his self-esteem.
“I was just drowning. It was like Satan just pushing me deeper and deeper and deeper under the water,” he told the Christian Post. “I just wanted to crawl into a hole and just be left alone all by myself. I didn’t know if I wanted to keep living.
“How can I go through another miserable year like that? I just wanted to die.”
Hand’s pain started as strictly physical. She tore her ACL in November 2009 and was forced to take a redshirt season in what would have been her sophomore campaign. She didn’t return until January 2011, and that period away from the court was a trying time – and one example of when she struggled with her faith.
“I hated my life,” she told the Tulsa World. “I was so mad at the Lord. I was supposed to be this great Christian girl, but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a relationship with the Lord.”
From there, both Hand and Jones have thrown themselves into their religion. The Tulsa World described Hand as getting lost in scripture after her struggles with injury, and the Christian Post said God intervened to improve Jones’ life.
And the rest is history.
But it wasn’t a coincidence that the pair had each other to lean on as their college careers blossomed – Hand as a contributor to the Sooners’ Sweet 16 team last March, and Jones as the signal-caller in a Fiesta Bowl win over Connecticut last January.
It’s clear that the couple is on the same page, even if it may have to spend some time apart thanks to Jones’ football career. The star quarterback could enter the NFL draft after his junior season if things go well – as expected. Hand has two more years of eligibility left, which she told The Oklahoman that she plans to use.
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