Baylor couple shares their college story of love and the proposal
By Taylor Rexrode
Many proposals have happened on Baylor’s campus. For one couple, a symbol of that special moment has remained under a bridge for the past nine years, written in white chalk.
Matt Waller, who graduated in 2003, met 2005 alumna Jennifer Welch at the Baylor Marina in August 2002. He was in between two-a-day football practices and she was leading a Welcome Week group of transfer students.
Welch, now Jennifer Waller, remembers the first time she met Matt Waller and how their personalities clicked.
“I thought he was so handsome,” Jennifer said. “I think he loved being there at the marina because I was leading this thing outside. He wasn’t just the typical guy. He was really fun.”
They discovered they both enjoyed running, so they started meeting together on the Bear Trail a couple of evenings every week.
“I was running with some friends and apparently he was running with me because he wanted to get to know me better,” Jennifer said. “His mom makes that joke because he would get home from football practice and then go straight to running.”
Matt attributes those evening runs to the start of their relationship.
“As we were running, that’s where our relationship started,” Matt said. “We started dating right then. It felt right.”
After a year of weekly runs and frequent coffee dates, the couple started discussing their future together. Matt said they were right for each other from the start. They both realized early on that what they had was special.
“The whole relationship was easy,” Matt said. “It felt good from the beginning. I knew it would happen about six months into the relationship.”
Jennifer said she felt the connection too.
“Every day it just got more sure,” Jennifer said. “I was sure he was a keeper.”
By the time they had been together for a year and a half, Matt said he was already making plans on how to propose to the love of his life.
“We were driving and saw a billboard that said ‘A Waco Name Is Changing’,” Matt said. “Jen said, ‘Wouldn’t that be cute if that was some couple that was proposing?’ I brushed it off while keeping it in the back of my mind.”
A month before the proposal, Matt wrote “A Baylor Name Is Changing” in white chalk on the sidewalks where she would walk to class.
“I wrote it probably 12 times and she never saw it,” Matt Waller said.
Jennifer said she didn’t expect anything to happen in the time leading up to the proposal.
“He was telling me the week before or so that it wasn’t feasible to happen soon,” Jennifer said. “I didn’t even see the first couple of chalks until one time he stopped to tie his shoe over one. I had no clue. It did not cross my mind.”
On the day of the proposal, they started jogging along University Parks Drive. Matt said the ring was burning a hole in his pocket. When they reached the bridge that crosses the Brazos River, Matt said he decided to take them on a detour.
“I chose the marina because that’s where our relationship started,” Matt said. “I wanted to end at the marina, so we got off the Bear Trail and came under the bridge. I had written on the underside of the bridge ‘A Baylor Name Is Changing’ so that it wouldn’t be affected by the rain.”
Matt had written the phrase on the bridge rafters. He had also hidden a special box underneath the bridge, which contained a Bible inscribed with Jennifer’s soon-to-be married name: Jennifer Waller.
“I still use that Bible every day,” Jennifer said. “I love the thoughtfulness of it. You could tell he paid attention.”
They continued over to the marina, where Matt got down on one knee and took the ring out of his pocket. They got engaged in March 2004.
The Wallers were married in Katy on Sept. 10, 2005. Today, they live in Medina with their two children—Anna, 4, and Ty, 7 months. Matt is the camp director of Deer Creek Adventure Camp. When he is back at Baylor recruiting for his camp or checking in on football practice, he likes to stop and look at the chalk under the bridge.
Nine years later, it still reads “A Baylor Name Is Changing.”
“My staff makes fun of me for saying, ‘Hey, come see where I proposed to my wife!’ but I have pride in it,” Matt said. “Every time we come here, we have to see it. One day it will go away but oh well. It’s been there for nine years.”
Waller has some advice for students looking to start the next chapter in their lives. “Don’t have a lot of expectations,” Matt said. “When it comes to proposing, pull things from the past and think of what you want in the future. Have fun with it and make it creative and symbolic.”