From the archives: Our profile of Lauren Tannehill, wife of Miami Dolphins Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, from the September 2014 issue.
By Elizabeth Rahe
City & Shore Magazine
Lauren Tannehill is almost ready for her photo shoot when she receives a troubling text. A young fan she and her husband, Miami Dolphins Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, met through the Make-A-Wish Foundation is not doing so well. She asks the makeup artist for a break and texts Ryan with ideas for lifting the boy’s spirits. For a moment, the smoky eye shadow and pink lip gloss will have to wait.
For the Fins quarterback, this side of his wife – the devotion she focuses on their philanthropic efforts – has been a continuing wonder.
“I have always known she had the potential to make an impact on a community,” he says, “but over the past couple of years, I have really seen her make a huge impact. It is not always a large production or headline event, but her care and the way she connects with people on a day-to-day basis is rare in the world today.”
Ryan Tannehill – who opens the 2015 regular season on the road in Washington on Sept. 13 amid lofty hopes – is not shy about praising his wife. When he was introduced to the South Florida media in April 2012, a reporter asked him why he got married so young (age 23). He gestured toward his bride of three months and said, “Can you blame me? … I found the woman I love. I’m set.”
Likewise, Lauren is the No. 1 cheerleader for her husband, who recently kicked off his third year as quarterback amid promising prognostications – breakout season, elite potential, top-10 talent. His wife might add descriptions such as my love, amazing husband and stud, as she has via social media. Along with all Fins fans, she hopes that Bill Lazor’s new, fast-paced offense – featuring Tannehill’s arm and maturing leadership – will help deliver the Dolphins to the playoffs after a five-season hiatus.
An Aggie romance
Lauren Ufer first realized Ryan Tannehill could throw a football during a casual game among spring breakers in Panama City, Fla. Although both were Texas A&M Aggies who attended the same church, they had not met before that trip. Ufer quickly learned Tannehill was a celebrated quarterback from Big Spring, Texas, who played wide receiver and, primarily in his junior and senior years, quarterback for the Aggies. She also discovered he was a dedicated biology/pre-med student who shared her faith, her love of family, her taste for adventure and her sense of humor.
“She is one of the funniest people I know,” Ryan says. “There is rarely a dull moment around her.”
First attracted to Ryan’s 6-foot-4 athletic good looks, Lauren says their relationship soon deepened. “There was a real click for us,” she says.
Throughout their courtship they enjoyed going to parks with their dogs, going to movies, exercising together and cooking – “mostly me cooking and him eating it,” she says.
As Ryan got to know her through dating, he says, “She was everything I was looking for in a wife.”
The future looked bright in May 2011 as Ryan graduated from Texas A&M with a major in biology, a minor in business, a 3.6 GPA and plans for a January wedding in Mexico. Lauren had graduated in 2010 with a major in communications and a minor in psychology, and she was working as an assistant in a physician’s office, thinking about nursing school. Signed with a Houston modeling agency, the 5-foot-7, azure-eyed blonde was also a fledgling fashion model. After booking a two-week formal-wear shoot, she treated herself by acquiring a Labrador Retriever puppy.
Ryan was aiming for medical school to pursue his interest in orthopedics. The couple’s engagement announcement stated that they “both plan to continue their education and eventually be a doctor/nurse team and work together.” However, Ryan continued to work on what Lauren calls his No. 1 career dream, playing pro football.
Plucked by the Dolphins
A visit to Radio City Music Hall in April 2012 would make that dream a reality, when the Miami Dolphins picked Ryan Tannehill eighth overall in the NFL draft. Lauren dressed for the occasion in a form-fitting, off-the-shoulder sheath that was, arguably, Miami Dolphins orange. Cameras and commentators zeroed in on Mrs. Tannehill, whose modeling experience helped her make the most of time before the lens. She became a trending topic on Twitter, reportedly generating 800 tweets in 10 minutes.
“I saw your girl in an orange dress, dude. Did you know something?” commentator Deion Sanders asked.
“No, I really had no clue,” Ryan said. “She just loved the color of that dress, but it worked out perfectly.”
Lauren admits she was hoping they would land in Miami. As the Tannehills begin their third season in South Florida, it seems the joy of subtropical living has not diminished.
“I feel so lucky to live here. Every day I wake up, I’m like, OK, this is like living a vacation,” she says.
Photos on Twitter and Instagram show the couple, both 26, taking advantage of their adopted home – smiling on the beach, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing. Just before training camp began in late July, Lauren’s nearly 28,000 Twitter followers could see the Tannehills enjoying a helicopter getaway to an undisclosed location with friends. She posted photos of the group – including former Dolphin and now Kansas City tight end Anthony Fasano and his blond, blue-eyed model fiancée, Cary Poole, whom she dubbed “my twin.”
She added the hashtags #southfloridalivin and #lifeisgood.
Lone Star to Sunshine State
Before the draft, Ryan expressed concern his new wife would have to move away from family and friends in College Station, Texas.
“I told him, ‘I’ll be fine. I will make friends. I can talk to a wall. I’ve moved lots of times,’ ” Lauren says.
She did not always see relocations in such a positive light. Born in Atlanta, Lauren grew up with two younger brothers, in what she calls a “low-drama, high-activity household.” Over the years the family made five moves, including the last time, from Fayetteville, Ark., to College Station, midway through her junior year of high school.
“Why do I have to do this again?” she says, recalling her feelings at the time. “I just want to stay where my friends are and graduate high school here.”
Now she is thankful for the move that put her in College Station, home to Texas A&M University and the scholar-athlete who would become her husband. As Ryan’s football career ramped up, she began to see her family’s serial relocations as valuable training.
“Those moves prepared me to be the new girl in a new place, to get out there and introduce myself and be friendly,” she says. “You just never know about your circumstances – why they happen and what they are going to bring you through in the future.”
Although it was a challenge getting acclimated at first, especially with Ryan working 14-hour days, she quickly developed relationships within the Dolphins organization and in the community. Family members visit often, including her parents – John Ufer, a medical practice administrator, and Nancy Ufer, an insurance and real estate agent – and two brothers, Jordan, 23, and Dillon, 18, both in college.
“We’re very close. I talk to them all the time. I definitely miss them, but this is a fun place for them to visit. Everyone thinks it’s fun to come to Florida.”
Life with Ryan
Ryan and Lauren share their Fort Lauderdale home with Bear, her black Lab, and Coco, a dachshund, a seemingly mismatched pair but “best friends,” she says. The couple makes the most of coastal living, getting out on their boat every chance they get. Lauren caught an 18.9-pound tuna in the Miami Dolphins Foundation Fishing Tournament in June, the top catch of its category in the female division.
Accustomed to Ryan’s long hours, she sees it as her job to make his life as easy and comfortable as possible so he can do his job well. That includes cooking for him. In July she tweeted a photo of a bacon, egg white, whole-wheat tortilla quesadilla with guacamole and fresh raspberries, along with the tag #happyhusband.
Lauren’s days are full, she says, including time for working out and working on philanthropic projects. She is represented by Next Model Management in Miami, and she serves as brand ambassador for Levinson Jewelers in Fort Lauderdale, a partnership that includes mutual support of both parties’ charitable initiatives.
“Lauren and Ryan are great people who are doing awesome things in our community,” says John D’Amico, vice president of operations at Levinson Jewelers.
The collaboration came about organically, D’Amico adds. “She was a friend and a client first, and it was a natural fit. She’s a fantastic model, and we are very excited to have her represent the brand.”
Lauren also handles some scheduling and marketing tasks for Ryan. The quarterback inked an endorsement deal with sportswear giant Adidas even before the 2012 draft.
Although she misses her husband during their times apart, Lauren has found that the pro-football lifestyle is good for their marriage. “When we see each other during the season, it’s just really fun because we have such little time, and I’m so excited to see him. And during the off-season, we get to be best friends again. I think [that time together] is more meaningful than if we saw each other all the time.”
A fixture cheering for Ryan and the team at home games, Lauren also travels for some away contests. Seeing her husband on the playing field can be nerve-wracking, especially last season when he was sacked 58 times, highest count in the league, according to NFL stats. Although she admits to some anxiety when she watched him play during their college days, she claims to be more at peace with it now.
“I always pray for health and protection on his body. I really just get pretty excited game day.”
Both Christians and churchgoers, they try to live according to biblical tenets, she says. “We’re not perfect, but we try – keeping positive and keeping focused on what’s important in life.”
Being in the public eye has brought challenges, including the time last January Lauren accidentally left an AR-15 rifle in the back of a rental car she returned to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and it was reported in the media. (Social media photos have revealed that they have enjoyed target shooting together.) Ryan Tannehill legally owned the gun, and through a Dolphins spokesman, he declined comment, saying only that it was a “personal matter.” Lauren has no comment about the episode.
On the whole, she says, encounters with fans as well as the media have been positive. “I feel blessed that I’ve been treated the way that I have. … I’m grateful for the positive light [the media] shine on my husband and me and what we do in the community.”
Reaching out, looking forward
Both Tannehills say they see the stage they have been given as an opportunity to give back. They formed Tannehill’s A.C.E.S. (Achieving Community Education Success), a high school mentoring program that has rewarded a group of students from American Senior High in Hialeah for maintaining good grades. Outings have included trips to Monster Mini Golf in Miramar and Sea World in Orlando as well as community service projects, such as beautifying a military veteran’s yard in Fort Lauderdale in association with the nonprofit home repair organization Rebuilding Together.
Lauren enjoys connecting with the students in Tannehill’s A.C.E.S. “They’re really neat kids. It’s awesome to hear and see that they’re excelling and doing better in school. It’s interesting, [the students] wrote us letters to thank us after we took them to Sea World, and I found out that they enjoy the community service work more than anything.”
She has participated in Miami Dolphins Women’s Organization projects, including shopping outings with children in need to purchase school supplies, clothes and Halloween costumes. The Tannehills have supported other charities as well, including Make-A-Wish, in which connections come with the territory.
“We develop relationships with these kids, and we do really care about their outcomes, how they’re doing, so we try to keep up with them,” she says.
When asked what a successful life would look like down the road, Lauren focuses first on her husband. “Honestly, if Ryan gets a really long, great career, and sets some records and hopefully a Super Bowl, I would be the happiest person ever, because that’s his dream, and I want to see that for him.”
She says they both still hope to pursue medical careers – after Ryan has a long and successful stretch in pro football.
Completing the vision of her future, Lauren does not mention modeling jobs or endorsements. “I want to make a difference in the community and in our program [Tannehill’s A.C.E.S],” she says. “I want to see those kids go to college and graduate. I want to see positive differences in the community – things you can actually see that were a result of our efforts.”
That community is South Florida, where she would like to stay a while. “Who wants to leave Florida? We love the water and the South Florida lifestyle. We really enjoy being here.”
With Miami Dolphins hopes riding in large measure on her husband, fans likely would support Lauren’s wish to stick around. From her lips, they might say, to Tannehill’s arm.
Local 10 News Video of Lauren Tannehill’s photo shoot with City & Shore Magazine
* * *
All jewelry courtesy Levinson Jewelers, 888 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-462-8880: pgs. 84-85, gold and diamond rings by Mattioli: pgs. 86-87, gold and diamond necklaces; pgs. 88-89. 18-kt. rose gold and black & white diamond earrings, from the Levinson Jewelers Collection; pg. 91. 18-kt. rose gold and diamond hand bracelet by Buddha Mama Jewelry.