By LARRY VAUGHT
It might be hard to believe considering Landon Young’s size — 6-7, 320 pounds — that anyone would not know he’s a football player but Haleigh Johnson says she did not know when she met him in class at the University of Kentucky.
“My friend knew him. It’s usually easy to spot a UK athlete. I knew he didn’t play soccer or basketball but I had no idea he was a football player,” Johnson said.
Once she found out he not only played but was a starter, she apologized to him for thinking he might have been “someone who just stood around” during games.
Johnson is from Floyd County in eastern Kentucky and went to Pikeville High School. Young went to Lafayette High School in Lexington. Now the two are recently engaged.
“It was definitely love at first sight. I didn’t know he was trying to hit on me in class at first. I thought he was just messing around. He would poke at me, do the typical things boys do to flirt. He did it to couple of other friends in class, but he told me he had to do that to not make it that obvious he was flirting with me. He plans stuff too much at times,” Johnson said.
That included recently when he proposed to Johnson during a trip to Gatlinburg with both of their parents. The families had told Johnson the visit to Gatlinburg was a “birthday trip” for her so the families could celebrate together. She decided to visit SkyBridge rather than Anakeesta because she had been there before.
They rode the sky lift to the Gatlinburg SkyBridge. Both sets of parents knew that’s when Young planned to ask her to marry him— he had asked her father’s permission already.
“I was not putting anything together. My dad loves to take pictures. There was snow on the mountain and it was not weird for him to have his camera out,” Johnson said. “Landon pulled me over to take a picture, and he normally hates taking pictures. He said, ‘Do you love me and I have a question to ask?’ I thought he was joking.”
She had anticipated he might ask her to marry him at Kroger Field before or after a UK game with 50,000 or more fans watching. She was fine only having 30 to 40 watching in Gatlinburg.
“Actually I was okay with whatever he wanted to do. I knew I would say yes, even if I was in shock,” she said. “I don’t think he was ever worried about me saying yes. The bad thing is I really don’t know if I actually ever said yes. I just stuck my hand out (for the ring) and he said, ‘Is that a yes?’”
Young had the engagement ring she had picked out and admitted he did totally surprise her with that.
“We chose (Christmas) gifts for each of our parents. We got his mom some things for the kitchen and also knew she wanted ear rings,” Johnson said. “We bought some and the jewelry store offered to shine them up so I thought I would just look at rings. She (the salesperson) caught me looking at engagement rings and asked me if I saw something I liked. Landon said, ‘You know you want to.’ I felt awful and didn’t want him thinking that was all I wanted. So he got me pretty good by tricking me into doing that with the ring.”
She enjoys watching him play football but admits she sometimes gets a “little too into it” during games.
“If I am not at the game, I am screaming into the TV,” she said. “At games I will sometimes just have to hold my breath because I don’t want to say something and make people think I don’t know what I am talking about. Before meeting Landon I knew more about defense than offense. I definitely have learned a lot about the left tackle position.”
Young contemplated giving up his final season at UK to put his name into the NFL Draft, a move Johnson would have supported.
“I told him, ‘You do what you want to do, we will make it work,’” she said. “Honestly, I was surprised he did stay. He didn’t want anyone to sway him on his decision. He kept pretty much to himself until he made it. The decision was all him.”
She graduated in May, 2019 and was willing to move to the city where he would be playing if he decided to go into the draft and giving up her job as administrative assistant for the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development where she assists Kentucky farmers in various way with business plans, budgets, loans, grants and more.
“I had no Ag background at all other than I loved cows and would have cow birthday cakes,” she said.
She won’t have a cow cake June 27th when they get married in Lexington — the logical spot since her family is from eastern Kentucky and Young has family members in western Kentucky.
“Plus he has introduced me to all of his really close friends here (in Lexington) and they are now my friends, too,” Johnson said. “I want them all to be part of my day, so it just made sense to get married in Lexington.”
She also had to be flexible with the wedding date that was set before the coronavirus outbreak cancelled spring practice as well as on campus classes
“We had to set the date pretty quick and with football we just had to find what time we could to make it work,” she said.
That date is not going to change.
“We will either get married in the place we planned or in somebody’s backyard or somewhere,” she said. “We are definitely getting married that day and that will give us a few days before he has to really get serious about football.”
That day will still be a little surreal to her.
“I just never thought I would end up with somebody that so many people talk about,” Johnson said. “Everybody just loves Landon, but that’s okay because I do, too.”