When Avery Eliason stepped onto the field at Ohio Stadium during halftime of Saturday’s Ohio State spring game, she thought she was just going to kick a field goal.
Drue Chrisman’s girlfriend was sitting in the stands with former Ohio State kicker Sean Nuernberger and his girlfriend when long snapper Liam McCullough’s girlfriend, who works with OSU’s fan engagement team, came up and told them that they would be participating in a halftime kicking contest for the specialists’ girlfriends.
“I was nervous to kick a ball in front of everybody, I’ve never done that before,” Eliason said. “But I didn’t really suspect anything other than that. I was planning to just kick the ball the best I could and then I thought it would be cool to go down on the field; it was the first time I’ve been down on the field actually during a game. So yeah, I really had no idea that anything other than that was going to happen.”
What Eliason didn’t know at the time was that the “contest” was all part of a plan schemed up by her boyfriend – and that Nuernberger, McCullough, their girlfriends and many others were in on the plan.
Just as he does for Ohio State’s actual kickers in actual games, Chrisman caught a snap from McCullough and held the ball in place against the Ohio Stadium turf as Eliason began running toward the ball. As she approached Chrisman, however, he extended his arm and put up his hand, signaling for her to stop.
Chrisman put down the football, picked up the engagement ring that he had discreetly placed next to him, turned to Eliason and asked her to marry him.
She said yes. The stadium crowd roared. Blake Haubeil ran up alongside the happy couple and threw his arms up in the air in a touchdown pose as Ohio State’s entire team joined them in celebration.
“I don’t even think I heard her say yes. I blacked out a little, not gonna lie,” Chrisman said after Saturday’s game. “Being able to do this in the stadium, during the spring game … it was just an incredible experience. I just love this university so much, to be able to do it on that field that I’ve given so much too, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
Chrisman said he was originally planning to propose to Eliason next month, on their one-year anniversary since they began dating, but came up with his plan to propose during the spring game a couple weeks ago at the suggestion of a friend. Going into his third season as the Buckeyes’ starting punter, Chrisman decided there would be no better place to propose than the Shoe, with a large crowd of Ohio State fans watching.
That made the moment all the more special for Chrisman and Eliason, as they had the opportunity to celebrate their engagement with Buckeyes fans – not only with those sitting in the stands, but with the swath of congratulatory messages they received all weekend on social media.
“Been just feeling so much love from not only Drue but from everybody, family and friends, and Buckeye Nation has just been so wonderful,” Eliason said in an interview with Eleven Warriors on Sunday. “Our hearts are so full.”
It warmed my heart when I found out how many people were involved in making this happen. So so thankful https://t.co/4Ek03SqZpg— Avery (@averyanne33) April 13, 2019
While Eliason and Chrisman have only been officially dating for less than a year, they’ve known each other since they were five years old, when Eliason’s family moved to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where Chrisman also grew up. As they became older, Chrisman and Eliason became increasingly close friends, but it wasn’t until she went on a year-and-a-half mission to Peru – Eliason, like Chrisman, is a Mormon – that she began thinking, as Chrisman put it after the game, that they should get “out of the friend zone.”
“He wrote me every single week, these really awesome letters and that’s really when I realized that ‘Wow, I have this guy in my life who’s so loving and so loyal to me, and why would I ever pass that up?’ And so, I came home and soon after we were dating, and the rest was history,” Eliason said.
Eliason is a student at Brigham Young University, but she’s been taking classes online and living in Columbus for the past year in order to be with Chrisman.
Chrisman’s proposal has drawn national attention – even People magazine wrote about it – but it’s not the first time Ohio State’s punter has gone viral. Before Saturday, Chrisman’s biggest claim to fame was his prowess flipping water bottles, which has been a staple of his social media for the past couple years.
Asked after the game whether he thought about incorporating a bottle flip into his proposal, Chrisman acknowledged that he thought about it, but joked that Eliason would have said no if he did.
Also would like to point out the fact I resisted the urge to put the ring in a water bottle— Drue Chrisman (@DChrisman91) April 13, 2019
Eliason, though, indicated she would have said yes no matter how he chose to propose.
“So I would definitely roll my eyes before,” Eliason said when asked if she would have rejected a bottle-flip proposal, “but gosh, I really do love him so much, and I had known that this was going to be something more than just a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Eventually, something like this was going to happen. So he could have done it however he wanted, but I knew what I wanted.”
“Been just feeling so much love from not only Drue but from everybody, family and friends, and Buckeye Nation has just been so wonderful. Our hearts are so full.”– Avery Eliason on the aftermath of Drue Chrisman's proposal
In order to propose during the spring game, Chrisman needed the approval of Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and head coach Ryan Day. Quality control coach for special teams Parker Fleming provided an assist, too, holding onto the ring for the first half while Chrisman handled his punting and holding duties.
Chrisman, who averaged just under 44 yards per punt on three punts in the first half of Saturday’s game, acknowledged that it was challenging to stay focused on punting, knowing what he was about to do at halftime.
“I didn’t have the best day punting that I would have liked to have, but yeah, my heart was beating,” Chrisman said. “This was definitely the most nervous game that I’ve ever been a part of, and it was a practice, so that tells you something.”
Day was fully supportive of the distraction, though, and he enjoyed seeing the entire team come together to celebrate the moment.
“I think that Drue and his girlfriend have a special relationship, so that was good for them to see, and the team’s reaction was pretty good,” Day said.