She's not a "first lady" or an armchair quarterback, and she
doesn't want to know which players are in the coach's doghouse.
What does Kelsey Patterson want? "To love 'em up," as her husband puts it.
By Rick Waters '95
We Googled you, and surprisingly, there is not a lot written about you. People know who you are, but you're kind of an unknown figure. So thank you for talking with the magazine. As a new season starts, what do you look forward to?
Every season you look forward to getting through the year with a lot of positives and very few negatives. Obviously lots of wins, lots of good health, lots of happy coaches. That's a good season.
Anything specifically that you're excited about this season?
The longer I have been part of the program the more I get to know the players better. Not only do I like to watch the progression on the field, but I enjoy seeing players get their degrees, seeing them finish the program and come back to visit. That's fun for me. This will be my sixth season so I am seeing freshmen reach their senior year and graduate and come back.
What's the Patterson household like this time of year? Chaotic? Quiet?
It's quiet. Gary is at TCU a lot more. In the summer, he spends more time at the house. Now, we're both on campus. We recently moved closer [to campus], and I like to be here getting to know players more and watching practices. So, our house gets quieter, and we do more activities on campus and fewer at our house.
We all know Gary works a lot. Do you have to remind him to come home and get some sleep?
I don't remind him. He's got that. He is very passionate about what he does, and that's one of the things I respect about him and love about him. It's one of the reasons I married him. We both understand that part of who we are as a couple and what we do with our lives is about making young people's lives better. His outlet is football - making young men into men - and helping them make their lives better through athletics and earning a degree. I share in the excitement when young people are doing great things in their lives. It comes off sounding kind of corny, but we're having success and there are a lot of exciting things happening at TCU. So how could you not want to be a part of it?
How does Gary get interested in what is happening in your world?
I was in sports before Gary and I met. I went to the University of Texas, and I worked in the athletics department there. I also worked for the Southwest Conference doing marketing. It was my first job out of college and the last year of the conference. When I started dating Gary, I knew what I was getting myself into. I was prepared for it. I knew the athletic world and I like the competitive environment. So that's what makes it work.
What's going on in my world is the opportunity for young people to come in and get an education – be it through math or band or athletics – and change their life. That's part of my passion, and that's why I get excited about the program, to watch them develop as players and develop as people. They change their lives and their family's lives. That's incredibly exciting.
The other part is typical coach's wife – TCU events and manage our household.
Do you see yourself as the "first lady" of TCU football?
No, no. We have a coaching staff of fabulous wives, a lot of them have been doing it a heck of a lot longer than I have. It's a joint effort of assistant coaches' wives who really take an interest in our players' lives - both on and off the field. One of the things Gary always talks about is that he hires good people. He hires character. We have a lot of character - in the coaches and the wives. You know, Gary's the head coach. Sometimes, players get closer to the families of their position coach than the head coach, so they're very important to the program.
There's not a lot of turnover on this staff – a lot of continuity and stability. Some of the assistant coaches have been here as long as he has. Why is that?
This is a great place. Fort Worth is a great place. I grew up here. TCU is a great place. If you look around at other cities, it's not apples to apples. I've lived in Dallas, in Austin, in Orlando, and you have to look at quality of life, particularly with what the Basses did in Sundance Square. The infrastructure that's been developed here is incredible. People take pride in the city, the cultural district, the zoo. The philanthropic nature in Fort Worth is not because it's the thing to do. It's because we care about our city. That, to me, is what has made the difference in the quality of life. When you look at coaches moving, you have to ask, "Can you go someplace else and have your family enjoy the lifestyle that you have here?" Then you go into the other things that people always talk about. There's no state tax. We live near a major airport. But you come back to what is being done at TCU. Look at the facilities that are being built. Look at the people. Do you want to work with good people?
More and more, players come into the program with difficult family situations and the two of you and the rest of the staff wind up functioning like surrogate families. Does that just come with the territory?
I don't know how you not do it. During the recruiting process, you're selling them on TCU and that we're going to take care of them, as Gary says, not for four years but 40 years. You're looking into the eyes of an 18 year old, and he's trusting you. He's 100 or 500 miles from home. I remember how tough college was being away from home for the first time, not just academically, but socially. So you make promises to them, and I don't know how you can't feel entrusted to care for them. I like getting to know the players. I like making sure they have a place to enjoy being a college student. The new players' lounge is going to be great for them to unwind. They've got some place to go that is homey.
Tell me about Cookie Days.
[Laughs] They're always two days before a game. So if we play on a Saturday, it's a Thursday. I don't remember when it started. I'll be honest – I don't bake. But there are cookies out on Thursdays and I think they go pretty fast.
Do players confide in you?
To a certain extent. In Old West terms, Gary is kind of the black hat, and I'm the white hat. This is the first of a couple of years that the players are more comfortable with me being around. But it's important for them to know that they can come to me and confide. I think sometimes that's the head coach thing. They're not sure if I am going to tell Gary some things.
What do you tell them? "I won't say anything to Gary?" Or you don't say that because you can't promise it?
When it's personal issues, I think most of the time I want the players to know that I have their best interest at heart. If it's something that's critical, I don't know. I always tell Gary, "I don't want to know." I don't want to know who is in trouble. I want to treat all the players all the same. I want to love 'em up, as Gary says. I want them to know that it's going to be all positive from me. I would like for them to know that I would always want them to come to me if there was something we could do for them.
What do they call you? Kelsey?
Okay, Mrs. P., you're the secretary-treasurer of The Gary Patterson Foundation, which, according to the Web site, "provides resources and opportunities for kids seventh grade and younger that they normally wouldn't have." Tell me what the foundation means to you and Gary.
Gary and I have been married five years and it's grown during that time. We have encountered some kids around town who don't have opportunities that other kids have. The foundation provides opportunities. We have to stop at seventh grade because of NCAA rules. We identify deserving organizations that serve economically disadvantaged young people and provide them opportunities whether it is life skills programs, physical education or scholarship programs.
What we've seen is that not everybody has access to these types of programs. Sports camps, science camps, zoo camps, for example. Some places just don't have those kind of programs. We've decided to go into those areas and make those programs available. The foundation has a goal of putting something positive back into the neighborhoods of our community.
Your degree is in marketing, as you mentioned. You've worked at the Fort Worth Zoo, marketing firms in Austin and Dallas. How do you apply those skills and that mentality to what you do now?
Mostly being nosy. [Laughs] Actaully, my degree was in communications. I worked on the capital campaign for the University of Texas. I use it for the foundation. I've used it to help Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas. Around here, it helps me understand what happens. It just keeps me informed about the whys. I try not to interject too often. I know that I probably do. What I have said before is to use me as a free resource but know that you can tell me no, too.
You mentioned you're a Fort Worth native. Are you surprised to be where you are?
Certainly not, but I wasn't born here. We moved here when I was in the third grade.
What does your dad do?
He works at Lockheed on the Joint Strike Fighter program. My mom works for Lockheed also.
You consider Fort Worth to be your hometown.
Yes, but I didn't grow up around TCU. I really grew up in Benbrook.
What led you attend the University of Texas?
I'm an only child. I needed to get away from home. I was pre-med when I first started looking at schools, and I looked at a lot of schools – Georgetown, Colgate, a lot of small schools. I decided I needed to be not that far from home, just that right distance. I am very close with my parents, but I needed some distance from mom and dad. I had a great college experience.
You mentioned rescue dogs. You have two – both rescue dogs. Tell me about them. What are their names?
Chloe and Mattie. They're both golden retrievers. Occasionally, I'll bring Chloe out to practice.
What is it about that breed that you like?
They're just great affectionate family dogs.
How did you get into animal rescue?
I got into rescue when I was single, and I volunteered and did PR and marketing for them. I decided that if I ever got a dog, I would get a rescue dog. Eventually I got a rescue dog for my parents before I got married and got a house. Charlie was our first rescue dog – Gary and me. We had to put him down two years ago after he developed cancer.
I was told that I should ask you about the Nike trips you and Gary have gotten to take. Do you have a favorite?
The first one – it was our honeymoon. It was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It's Nike's annual coaches' trip.
You get to know the other coaches and their wives?
That's the biggest benefit, I think. You get to relax, true, but the interaction is the real enjoyment of it. Gary can sit and talk plays with all these great coaches and I sit out and talk with the wives. It's amazing what you can learn from those who have done it for years. How to deal with certain situations. I was surprised how much I learned, especially the very first year we went and I was brand new to coaching. How to handle it when everybody is saying bad things about your husband, or when they're saying great things and how to handle those things, too.
You are both certified scuba divers. Is that something you picked up on a Nike trip?
Actually, we did that on our real honeymoon. We realized very quickly that Gary was not a sit-on-the-beach person. So we took a resort course and got certified. And we both love it.
How often do you get to dive?
Some years, not very often. This year, we went one time. Last year, we didn't go at all. We used to go more often. But we love it. Gary loves to see the big animals – the sharks. I love to see the interaction of all the organisms, life taking place, how one thing interacts with another. One thing we both learned was just how big the world is and how small we are in comparison when you put on a tank. It's very quiet and calming down there. When you're on a wall and it drops 3,000 feet and you're hanging on and there's nothing down there but the abyss. It's an adventure we can do together.
Is there a lot of shop talk at home - defenses and plays?
Not really. That's never been my thing. I admit that I did not grow up a football fan until I got to college. Then I became one. I love watching now. But we don't talk about plays. He is the coach. I am not an armchair quarterback. What he does, I don't question. We talk more about how players are doing and what we can do for them to make them feel encouraged. Really what we talk about is whether everyone else has the tools they need to succeed in school and in the program. How can we motivate them so that they are getting what they need? In the short term, it is about winning games, but every once in a while you need to step back and remind yourself that players' lives are better because of college athletics.
What do you and Gary see as your future?
Play New Mexico on August 30. If you start planning too far ahead, you start getting into trouble. The most exciting things happen when you just let them happen. If you start planning things, it often isn't as exciting as if you just let it happen. If you look around right now at TCU and told people three years ago it was going to happen, people would think you're crazy. The near future for us is to keep doing what we're doing. We have a great group of players. I want to get to know them better. I want to have more fun.
Do you have a favorite game or moment?
The wins are always more fun, obviously. I like to watch the players on the field before the game - both teams. I like to watch for their emotion and intensity level. Studies in communications of organizations that succeed have shown that teams that have confidence and are emotionally prepared have greater chances for success. One favorite moment I have was watching our players before the Oklahoma game in 2005 and watching the OU players. You could sense from the energy level that our players were ready. They'd done the work. Now all they had to do was execute what they'd worked on, and they would achieve something great. It was their achievement. That gets my adrenaline going. That's when I am most happy for them because they made it happen.
I was told I should ask you about your first date with Gary. What happened?
I used to work with the wife of a former media relations staff member – Trey Carmichael. His wife Kristin worked at the zoo with me. They introduced us. Our first date was actually at one of his radio shows. It was during the season. We had a little bite to eat after the show. It didn't last very long.
He must have done something right.
He is very charming. I knew what I was getting into.
How has Gary changed as a coach since you've met him?
I would like to think that I have mellowed him out, but I think that's also projecting. I would like to think he has appreciated the value of something other than football. He's taken up hobbies. He's taken up scuba diving. Maybe I forced him, I don't know. How has he changed? He's allowed me to show him things other than football. That's how he's changed. I hope.
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