LORAIN, Ohio -- Brad Daugherty used to make his living pounding against 300-pound centers in the NBA. Off the court, his wife knows a much gentler man.
Daugherty met Heidi at a restaurant in Ormond Beach, Fla. She was a college student working as a waitress on the breakfast shift when Daugherty walked in, covered in grease after having just worked on his friend's race car.
Even so, she thought he was perfect at first sight. Later, she found out he told his racing pals, "She's cuter than a speckled pup."
Friends set them up on a date, and he arrived "with no shoes, wearing overalls and chewing tobacco," Heidi recalled. "We went for a walk on the beach. When I asked him what he did, he said he just hung out with the racing guys and worked on their car sometimes.
"I asked when he had his last real paycheck, and he said, `Last April.' He's so tall, I did ask him if he played basketball. I knew nothing about basketball, but he said, `Oh, every now and then.' "
When she told her parents about this new man in her life, she got contradictory advice. Her father said she'd wind up "living in a tent somewhere in the woods. He's got no job. Forget him." Her mother, on the other hand, told her, "It doesn't matter if you love him."
They dated for three months, and Daugherty ran up a $1,000 phone bill. She sent him a check for half of it. She still didn't know what he did for a living. It wasn't until they were engaged and she was on an airplane, flying to North Carolina to meet his family, that she found out -- from a stranger in the seat next to her.
"I was just talking, telling him I was going to Black Mountain to meet my boyfriend's family, and this man I didn't know said, `Oh, there's a lot of famous people who came from Black Mountain -- Billy Graham, Brad Daugherty.'
"I laughed. I said, `Isn't that funny? My boyfriend's name is Brad Daugherty.' I thought, `How cool that he has the name of a pro basketball player.'
"I just about hit the floor," she said. "I was so embarrassed that I didn't know who he was. Then I was mad. I could understand the first month -- but three months? He said, `I just couldn't think of any way to tell you without looking like a jerk.' I never did get my $500 back."
But that's not to say she didn't get something back.
"He's going to hate me for telling this," she said, as she recalls the boxed gifts from Cartier's and Tiffany's that he would bring home after long road trips.
"Most women like jewelry," she said. "But I kept telling him the most important things to me are the things you can't buy, things that take time. I'd return all the jewelry and he'd say, `I love you. I want you to have beautiful things.' "
She said, "Cook me a candlelight dinner, bring me a basket of wildflowers that you picked."
Last Christmas, instead of a present, he wrote her a five-page love letter, filled with his feelings, recalling special moments they shared over the past year, telling her how much he loves her.
"He hates it when I tell people," she said. "He thinks it's a fault. He says: `My wife has me wrapped around her finger.' But tell me, what woman wouldn't love to get a love letter from her husband telling her just how much he cares?"
Pub Date: 4/29/97