A Bond That Began With Football

When Natalie Wengroff and Paul Wiley met during their first year at Washington & Lee University’s law school, they found an easy conversation opener in the University of Michigan gear she regularly wore from her alma mater.

“I noticed that she was a very vibrant New Yorker, somebody who had strong opinions, a big personality but was also funny, had a great sense of humor, and, most importantly, was a big Michigan football fan,” said Mr. Wiley, who graduated from the University of Virginia.

What Ms. Wengroff noticed during their first encounter — which was at a new-student mixer before classes began — was decidedly less complimentary. “I remember talking to him and thinking he was very conceited,” she said.

After the first day of classes, during which they chose seats just one person apart (the professor said they would be in those seats all semester), her view of Mr. Wiley moderated. The two had all their courses together that first semester, so they spent a lot of time together.

Ms. Wengroff came to see that her initial view of Mr. Wiley had been flawed.

“He’s very well-spoken, very sure of himself, well-educated and gives off that confidence,” she said. “When we just were able to hang out, just the two of us, he was more reserved and a lot more thoughtful, and it was a very different interaction.”

So when he asked if she’d like to watch the Michigan-Notre Dame game at his place, she didn’t hesitate. Not understanding that he was asking her out, she brought a friend.

“I didn’t make it as clear as I should have that it was a first date,” he said.

She remained clueless until after the game was over (Michigan lost), and she stayed on to watch “Saturday Night Live.” The friend she brought had left, and she saw that Mr. Wiley seemed nervous and not sure what to do with his hands.

Clarity did not ensue.

“I ended the night with a high-five, making things murky,” Mr. Wiley, 33, said.

“The whole high-five thing was super awkward, so I didn’t know what to think,” said Ms. Wengroff, 32.

The following weekend, she and Mr. Wiley and other classmates went out for a night on the town, and while they were out, the two ended up talking alone. She invited him back to her place to catch up on the day’s sports highlights. They shared a first kiss that night, and, within a month, had agreed to be exclusive.

“I started law school not thinking about a relationship, just focused on career,” Ms. Wengroff said. “I was very tunnel visioned.”

At the conclusion of law school, the two agreed on the Washington area as a place that was big enough for her (she grew up in New York) but not too big for him (he’s from Charlottesville, Va.). She is now an associate in the investment management practice, in Washington, of the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. He is an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Arlington, Va., prosecuting misdemeanors.

“We realized what we were building our lives around was a life together,” said Mr. Wiley, who proposed in their apartment in September 2018.

After multiple pandemic-related delays, the couple married Sept. 4 at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, in a ceremony before about 100 guests, all vaccinated against the coronavirus. Rabbi JoHanna Potts officiated.

Football factored once more into their story: They had wanted to avoid having a fall wedding, so as not to interfere with college-football weekends. But as the coronavirus forced two postponements, they found themselves back in the football season after all.

There was an upside, though.

“Our one-year wedding anniversary will be our 10-year anniversary!” Mr. Wiley said.

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