Danielle and Sam

Image 1 of Danielle and Sam

How We Met

Sam and I are biased, but think we have the greatest “first meeting” story ever. I was a 25-year-old Clemson University grad, living in Charlotte, NC, who loves Tiger football just as much as the next girl. Sam was a typical 22-year-old Clemson student who wasn’t going to miss the chance to see his team play for the first National Championship since 1981 – especially his senior year. After college, my friends moved all over the country. We decided it would be fun to meet up in Phoenix for the National Championship. I got my hands on a last minute ticket and jet set across the U.S. to Phoenix, AZ. Little did I know what would be waiting on the other side. Fast forward to tailgating before the game. My girlfriends and I met up with our college friend Gus (insert: the reason Sam and I are together). We enjoyed the pre-game festivities together with friends, new and old. At game time, Gus and his group of friends headed to one side of the stadium and my girlfriends and I headed to the other. At halftime, Gus invited us down to sit in the row behind him. The row was empty. It was the PAC-12 row, and I guess they didn’t want to witness great football. Clemson ended up losing that game to those who shall not be named. What do you do when you are upset about a loss? Eat pizza and drink beer — well at least, Gus, Jill, Sam and I do. The large group we were with dwindled to just the four of us. We set out for pizza and drinks at the closest restaurant – Mama Gina’s. We ate, drank, laughed and froze as we ate out on the patio on that cold, January night in the desert. I found out that Sam was from Pittsburgh originally, but was still in school to be an engineer. Where the story started to get interesting is that he was currently co-oping in Charlotte. The stars were starting to align. As the night neared an end, we all shared an uber back to our hotels. I sat in the middle seat in the back of the uber and without hesitating, linked my arm in Sam’s to stay warm (wink wink). In that moment, my heart rate shot up. I could tell that there was going to be more to this story. Clemson may have lost the football game, but we definitely won!

Image 2 of Danielle and Sam

how they asked

Back in Charlotte, NC things started to progress. Sam had one semester of college left at Clemson and somehow he convinced me to stick it out. My thoughts quickly took a turn to wild frat parties and pulling all-nighters, which I had already had my fair share of. I was more in to going to the gym on Friday nights and waking up at 7 am for work. Sam made it all worth it — that “semester” was a good balance of both. Once back in Charlotte, we hit the ground running. We were inseparable. Sam and I did everything together – beer runs at the brewery, grocery shopping, vacations, cooking and everything in between. It didn’t take long for our families to call us out and ask what we had planned for the future. We moved in together with immediate plans to tie the knot.

Since Sam and I met in Phoenix, we always wanted to get back there to explore it together. We are very outdoorsy and athletic and never turn down an adventure (one of the most favorite things I love about him). Our plan was to escape the chilly North Carolina weather and head to the Grand Canyon state.

We headed out on Friday evening after work with nothing but workout clothes, hiking shoes and cameras and Go-pros galore. The suitcase belongings were the epitome of our relationship – laid back and venturesome. After landing in Phoenix, we started where every good story starts – at the urgent care. Apparently, I had an ear infection, and the plane ride increased the pain. After staying up until 3 am trying to find pharmacies and our hotel, we settled right down with a world of excitement ahead of us.

Day 1: Sedona – This place was incredible. Being from the Southeast, we were used to rolling hills and lush scenery. This was the complete opposite with red rocks the color of fire and clear blue skies that extended for miles. We hiked to Devil’s Bridge. Looking back at photos, I have a panic attack every time. Knowing that we had talked about marriage, I just prayed that he did not propose on that sandstone arch. With goals of getting to Page, AZ by nightfall, we quickly left after our hike. The drive from Sedona to Page was one of the most fun times I have ever had with Sam. Every 50 miles or so, we’d pull the car over at interesting landmarks to take pictures and explore – singing, seat dancing and laughing the whole time. We made it to Page that evening and hit up the local Mexican restaurant. My favorite moment of dinner came when the waiter lit our chip basket paper on fire with the fajitas Sam ordered. Day 1 was a wrap.

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Day 2: Canyon X/Horseshoe Bend – Still not expecting a proposal, I woke up with no pressure. Sam and I were PUMPED (seriously pumped) to go to Canyon X. It is a slot canyon that is part of the famous Antelope Canyon. The corridors are deep and have hard edges that form characteristic “flowing” shapes in the rock. Honestly, words can’t describe this place. The exploration worked up an appetite and we made our way to a random dive bar we found online. The place couldn’t have been more perfect. We ate some our favorite unhealthy foods and finished them off with a cold brew. We were refueled and ready for our next stop – Horseshoe Bend. I’ve never been one to make a special trip to see the Grand Canyon, but when in Rome… or Arizona. Sam and I took the bull by the horns and not only went to the Horseshoe Bend overlook but took it step (or rock) further by scaling a (basically) mountain to get the ultimate view. It was worth it. We were the only people on the other side of this so-called mountain, overlooking Horseshoe Bend, under perfectly blue skies. There is nothing in the world that makes you feel so small and so big all at once. And there is nobody on earth that I would want to share that moment with other than Sam. After enjoying the view, he went back a few feet to set up our Go-Pro to “get the perfect shot”, while I needed to take a quick break and sit down for a minute. I could feel him walk up behind me. He sat down next to me for a minute and then, through closed teeth said, “Danielle, I need you to stand up.” We started laughing, as always. We knew in that moment, that our lives were going to get so much sweeter. I immediately started happy crying (I’m a crier) and nodded yes.

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This was it, the moment we had been waiting for. Nobody popped out of the bushes to take our photo, we weren’t overwhelmed with friends and family (although, we love you all), we weren’t all dressed up – it was perfect in every sense – it was just us. Even after exploring the Grand Canyon – Sam is, and will always be my greatest adventure. We called every friend and family member we could think of on our 4-hour trip back to Phoenix. Our perfect day concluded with a celebratory dinner at Mama Gina’s and a trip to the University of Phoenix stadium to find the parking spots where we first saw each other.

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Image 13 of Danielle and Sam

Day 3/4: Phoenix – I’ll keep this short and sweet, but we woke up in pure bliss. The days seemed to fly by. We crammed everything and anything in to our remaining days in Phoenix as a newly engaged couple. There is no better feeling than knowing that Sam and I get to live this life every day for the rest of our lives – together. And by the way, we got matching tattoos. Life is so fun and crazy with you, Sam!