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The Moment They Knew: Escalating From Phone Calls to a Football Card

After reconnecting via long-distance phone calls in the early 1990s, Tommi Vincent and Troy Vincent Sr., who had met a few years earlier in Trenton, N.J., decided it was time to exchange photos of each other through the mail.

At the time, Mr. Vincent was a 22-year-old cornerback for the Miami Dolphins.

“I sent her a football card because that’s the only picture I had of myself,” said Mr. Vincent, 52, now the N.F.L.’s executive vice president for football operations. “Back then you couldn’t FaceTime.”

Ms. Vincent, a life coach and chef who back then was an 18-year-old college student at Temple University, wasn’t immediately impressed by the gesture.

“That wasn’t personal enough for me,” she said.

The pair continued their daily phone calls for months, however. And after a few visits, a promise ring and an engagement, they married in 1994. Five children and six grandchildren later, they recalled the moment they knew.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

How did you two meet?

Troy Vincent Sr.: I was in high school, Tommi was in middle school. Tommi’s older sister was dating my best friend and that’s how I met the family.

Tommi Vincent: We weren’t dating back then, just to be clear. There’s a four-year age difference, so at that time, I met Troy hanging out with my sister and her friends, and I didn’t think they were cool at all. And then, fast-forward, my sister ended up marrying the gentleman, and they were visiting Troy, and he inquired about me.

Troy: They were on a Disney cruise coming through the state of Florida, where I was living. I said, “Show me a picture.”

You called her first after that?

Troy: Talk about running somebody down. It was like she didn’t even want to talk to me. So not only did I call her first, I would not stop calling.

Tommi: Troy is an old soul, God bless him, and his first phone call to me was at 6 a.m. I was out partying until 4:30 in the morning. So when he first called, I’m like, “What?”

Troy: She picked up eventually, though.

Tommi: I did have a perception of him because he was a professional athlete. In my mind I was like: He probably a dog. So I had my college roommate at the time screening the calls. The one time that I did pick up, it was raining and my girlfriend wasn’t there. And on that phone call we stayed on the phone from 3 in the afternoon until the next morning.

So you exchanged photos of yourselves after a few phone calls. How did she get the football card?

Troy: I mailed it, right?

Tommi: You had Linda mail it — his godmom. Like she was his assistant.

Troy: It was literally a football card in an envelope with a 25-cent stamp.

By 2023 standards, that feels like a lot of effort.

Tommi: At this point, I had already caught feelings for him, so I when I got the card I was extremely annoyed, because I didn’t feel what you’re calling “effort.” I was like: You’re going to send me a football card, and I’m sending you a picture?

Troy: I didn’t know if she still looked like the picture that I saw, because it was an old picture. But it didn’t matter because at that time, I fell in love with the person who I was on the phone with every day.

When did you both meet in person?

Troy: Maybe about five or six months later. I was up in Jersey and I said, “Let’s go out to dinner.”

Tommi: Troy was playing the Jets, and he was like, “Hey, why don’t you come out to the game?” All I had was the football card, so in my mind I’m like: I don’t even think I’m going to know who this is when I see him. He walked into the hotel and we saw each other and smiled. And then, a couple of days later, he got me an airline ticket to come fly out to Florida to spend a couple of days with him.

Was there a moment during your phone calls that you knew this was the person for you?

Troy: None in particular. I think just over time. Outside of my line of work, I was not spending much time with another individual. I’m getting up on the phone, we’re talking. On my breaks, we’re talking. Going to sleep, we’re talking. It was like, she like my homie. I’m now sharing with her everything about my life, and it was just what the doctor ordered.

Tommi: I would say about three months into our relationship — and I hadn’t shared it with anybody — but I had this feeling inside of me that was indescribable. I just knew that I wanted him to be my husband, but I felt like I would sound like a fool if I had expressed that three months into our relationship. We continued to build on the relationship and experiencing intimacy over the phone, which really allowed us to get to know each other in ways beyond.

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Mohammad SHiblu

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