"We bonded over pizza," she said. "It was love at first sight. We were engaged just about a month after that first date. Once I met Lovie, I never looked back."
What first attracted MaryAnne to Lovie?
"His small town values. He was very grounded. Lovie had tremendous intelligence. He was an optimist. He always thought the best of people and would do what he could to bring their positive qualities to the forefront. His family was so important to him that I thought Lovie would be a wonderful husband and father some day."
What about the couple's different backgrounds?
"I always kidded Lovie, telling him that I was a big city girl," MaryAnne said. "I liked the bright lights and all the activity that a metropolitan area could provide. Lovie's entire town of Big Sandy, Texas was smaller than Forest View High School in Arlington Heights, where I went to school. But that environment is what made him the man that he is today. Lovie was raised by a caring community. They looked out for him and they encouraged him to follow his dreams. I found that very appealing."
Once the couple married, MaryAnne followed Lovie through his coaching career from positions at Tulsa, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio State. Smith's first NFL job was as linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs from 1996-2000 before becoming the defensive coordinator for the Rams from 2001-2003.
Eventually, the Smith family grew to include three boys, Mikal, Matthew and Miles who turned out to be athletically inclined as well. Now, Lovie and MaryAnne are also grandparents to identical twin boys, Malachi and Noah.
"If you are a coach's wife, you learn to live almost as if your husband were in the military," MaryAnne said. "These jobs require considerable time away from home and family. You might have to relocate as your husband's responsibilities change. It's something that you learn to live with even though you feel occasionally as if you are raising the family all on your own."
But assistance often came from those who were in a similar situation.
"Coaching wives are a close knit group. We understand what is involved and what each family is going through. You learn to support each other emotionally though the difficult times. That was a lifesaver for me," MaryAnne said.
Smith also found that being involved in charity work gave her direction and helped her to make contacts in the community.
"I've never been one to just stay at home and knit," she laughs. "I like to be out there doing things. If you have been fortunate in life, it's important to give something back. Lovie's mother was stricken with diabetes at an early age. We have been very involved in projects relating to that condition or many years. I'm sure that once we settle in here, we'll find many organizations in Chicago that will be interesting to work with as well."
Now that Lovie has secured the Bears head coaching position, MaryAnne finds herself thinking back to her childhood in the Chicago area.
"I grew up watching Bears games," she said. "Football was a big part of my family's life. That I would marry someone who would get the call to coach here is almost beyond belief. I'm absolutely thrilled. It's a dream come true and it shows that if you have patience and follow God's plan, things will turn out just fine."
For the moment, MaryAnne's patience may be tested as she begins the search for a new home and is thinking of the logistics of relocating her family.
"Yes, we have a lot going on right now," she said. "My teenagers are very active. They love football and basketball, just like their father. In fact, I was at a high school game in Missouri last night. I definitely don't want to make them change schools during the middle of the school year. There's plenty of time for that. I'll begin to do some research, then we'll be able to reunite the family right here once summer has started."
And once the Smiths' are Chicago area residents?
"That's when it all begins," MaryAnne said. "Lovie is so excited about this opportunity. He respects the team and its history. He can't wait for the chance to bring the franchise back to greatness. This is going to be fun."