Landry Jones, Whitney Hand Form OU’s First Couple
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.
“We’re both very comfortable with whatever happens,” Hand told the newspaper. “We both want to finish what we started. Later in life, we don’t want to look back and say we didn’t do it right.”
Though it’s unclear what Jones will decide, he’s sure about one thing: He wants to be a preacher when his football career is over. According to The Oklahoman, Hand said that Jones was so excited to enter the profession that he joked about dropping out of school to start that career.
“Growing up I knew what was right and wrong but I hadn’t accepted it into my heart,” Jones said. “Now, when I read the Bible, the words are jumping off the page at me.
“Someday, I’d like to work at a church to see how it’s done, and afterwards find my own church.”
Jones, for his part, certainly already sounds like a preacher instead of a college quarterback when talking about certain topics, like the relationship between men and women.
The quarterback used the example of Adam and Eve to show how men need to be “stronger leaders,” according to the Tulsa World.
“Not saying women are the root of all evil or anything like that, but Satan came to the woman first,” Jones said, according to the newspaper. “The responsibility falls on him.
“We could all be walking in a totally different life if Adam had stepped up and said, ‘No, we’re not gonna do this; we’re gonna honor God and honor our covenant that we have with him. We’re not gonna eat this fruit.’ “
The newspaper also quoted Jones as saying that men are fearless, loyal and are meant to “avenge injustices.”
Does his soon-to-be wife agree?
“It’s our calling to be completely submissive,” Hand said, according to the newspaper. “That’s an art that women have lost.”
Jones did not lose the art of the perfect proposal. The quarterback and shooting guard had planned to get married after dating for a few years, Jenni Carlson detailed in The Oklahoman, but it was unclear when Jones would pop the question.
According to Carlson’s account, Jones took Hand to dinner one June night and then told her that he had a surprise for her in the backyard when the pair returned home. When she arrived there, Hand found Jones’ two older sisters reading aloud letters he had written to her about their past and present.
Then, Jones emerged to read a letter of his own about their future before getting down on one knee for the traditional proposal. The Oklahoman said that Hand’s older sister captured the moment that’s sure to be indelible in their minds.
But Hand still is going to need to check the videotape.
“I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even listen to the letters,” Hand said, according to the newspaper.
Like all power couples, people are now trying to find a hybrid name for the two - Carlson suggested Handry or Landney - as both Sooners try and capture national titles this season for Oklahoma - the perfect fairytale ending.