Passionate About the Community
and the Moms Who Live Here

American Football Day: Interviews with Omaha Area former-NFL Wives

Guess what y’all?! American Football Day is an actual thing… and it’s HERE!

American Football Day

American Football Day is annually observed on November 5th.

It celebrates one of the United States’ most popular sports: football. American Football Day also marks the midpoint of the National Football League’s season.
When we celebrate today, I hope we can look past these men as entertainment and see them as husbands and fathers. These are real men with wives and children waiting for them as they step off the field.
What better way to recognize American Football Day than hearing from retired NFL (National Football League) wives who are living here within the Omaha area!

Jessie Henry

Why did you choose to live in Omaha?

My name is Jessie Henry. I am married to Ricky Henry. Ricky played in the NFL for four years, from 2011 to 2015 for the Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, and the Kansas City Chiefs. We have two little ones, a 2-year-old boy named Weston and a 7-week old little girl, Ayla. We chose Omaha because we are both from here and our families are located here. We loved some of the places he played in; however, we knew we wanted to raise our kids around our families.

What was your greatest joy during the NFL?

During our time in the NFL, I really enjoyed being able to travel and explore all of the cities that Ricky was playing in. We were able to thoroughly experience the city and do a lot of things.

What was your greatest struggle during the NFL?

During Ricky’s playing years, he traveled and I stayed in Omaha for work. I am a PICU nurse, so I would work several days in a row and then take time off to travel and see him.

How did being in the NFL affect your family life?

Ricky and I didn’t get married or have children until the year after he left the NFL, which made it much easier to manage the long-distance. It was still difficult being away for so long, as I stayed in our house alone and took care of everything while he was gone.

Stacia Woodhead

Why did you choose to live in Omaha?

I’m Stacia Woodhead. I have been married to my husband Danny [Woodhead] for 11 years. We have 4 children, Gia 8, Will 6, Maisy 4 and Hope 2. We lived in New Jersey, Massachusetts, San Diego, and Baltimore during Danny’s 10-year career in the NFL when he played with the Jets, Patriots, Chargers, and Ravens. We chose Omaha as our home post-NFL because we had a house here that we lived in during the off-seasons of the NFL. We love Nebraska! [A bunch of our family] lives in Omaha. No other state has what Nebraska has which is kind people, space for our kids to play and four seasons.

What was your greatest joy during the NFL?

My greatest joy during our time in the NFL was the relationships that I made. Everywhere Danny played was far away from our family in Nebraska. Our teammates became our family. Had Danny not played we would not have had the opportunity to meet some of our best friends. We now have friends that we made while in San Diego that we continue to spend every Thanksgiving with.

What was your greatest struggle during the NFL?

My greatest struggle during our time in the NFL was the constant unknowns. In the beginning, it was the unknown [fact] of whether Danny makes the team. Then it was the unknown [if he would play] much in the games. Then there were the many unknowns of how long would it take for injuries to heal. Many nights I would lie next to Danny in bed and just pray he would be able to wake up and walk without much pain or a limp. [But] our biggest struggles were also our biggest blessings. In these times of trial, we put our full trust in God. We knew that these situations were out of our control and we wanted what God wanted in them. At times, God didn’t do things the way we wanted, but looking back, we can see the good that came from those difficult times.

How did being in the NFL affect your family life?

Danny always said he played football and was not football. He did a great job of putting his family first. There were times when things were out of his control. My first child was born via c-section. My next three were also. I would plan my c-sections around Danny’s football games. My second and third [child] were both born on Tuesdays after a Monday night game. With our fourth, Danny had a bad hamstring injury that made walking extremely painful. One of the days I was in the hospital, he didn’t even come to visit us. Danny had games or [attended] training camp on many occasions including our children’s birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas causing him to miss out on many milestones. He even missed the wedding of one of his brothers because he was in training camp.

The last game the kids got to watch their dad play

Alicia Bowman

Why did you choose to live in Omaha?

I am the wife of Zack Bowman. We have three boys. We spent 8 total seasons in the NFL. I grew up on a farm about 90 minutes south of Omaha and Zack enjoyed his time in Nebraska while playing here. We love the Elkhorn area and are very happy where we landed.

What was your greatest joy during the NFL?

One of my greatest joys was getting to meet some really incredible people from diverse backgrounds. We had an amazing group of players’ families during our time in Chicago. Most of us didn’t have children yet in the first couple of years. We became each other’s families! We spent holidays together, and when the men were gone for away-games, the wives would have slumber parties and keep each other company.

What was your greatest struggle during the NFL?

A struggle I continually wrestled with came during our sixth season with the Bears. I stumbled across PBS’ documentary called “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis”. I remember being absolutely glued to it and silent tears [streamed] down my face. I started researching all about brain injuries. When my husband returned home that night, I begged him to quit. My begging persisted for another two full years before he retired in 2016.

How did being in the NFL affect your family life?

The NFL completely affected our family life. One of my best friends and her husband, who was one of Zack’s teammates, had their firstborn on the same day as our firstborn. That day happened to be just 5 days before the NFC Championship game, so it was right back to work the next morning for our husbands. We bought our home in Omaha in January of 2012. Zack signed with Minnesota, but he wanted to wait and make sure he made the final cuts before our son and I joined him there. He drove back and forth on the weekends. He made the team, we packed up, and took off for Minneapolis. We got a phone call a few hours into our drive telling us he had been released. It was one month before he got picked up by Chicago. By that time, it was 3 weeks before our second was born. I was induced so Zack could fly to Omaha. He was with us less than 24 hours and then didn’t see us again for 7 weeks. He would be home for 24 hours and leave for another 3 weeks. The same story repeated itself exactly three years later when Zack was on the ground in Nebraska less than 24 hours at the birth of our third son.

Having kids made me start to think more long-term. Everyone assumes our three boys will play football—they won’t. Living in a place like Nebraska where football is idolized brings out a lot of mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I am very proud of Zack’s accomplishments. I was by his side for three major surgeries and I know what it took to come back from all of those. I was there for the winning plays, but also the nights in agonizing pain. I was there to see him be an NFL starter and also to get released. The highs and lows are drastic.

I hope that mothers of young boys spend as much time researching football as they do sunscreen. Read up about the impacts of brain trauma on the way you do organic food. The science is there if you aren’t afraid to look at it. The thrill of seeing your little boy be the star of the Friday Night Lights will not take away the sting of seeing him develop dementia in his 40s. I beg you, do some research. All independent researchers come to the same conclusions: our bodies were not made to be gladiators. Brain injuries from football are more about the repetitive hits to the head, not just concussions.

Thank you, ladies, for your transparency and for giving us a unique glimpse into the life of the National Football League.

, , ,

Comments are closed.