Into the Spotlight

Kristy Eckert

Amy Fickell is fit and pretty, with soft blond hair, exquisite skin, ocean eyes and an easy smile.

But make no mistake: The wife of Ohio State University's new head football coach is no Barbie doll.

The 35-year-old grew up one of 10 children in Spencerville, a Northwest Ohio village so small that at just 5-feet-7-inches, she played center on her high school basketball team. Now, she's a mother of four kids younger than 10-Landon, 9; Luca, 6; and identical twins Aydon and Ashton, 4. And she even pulls her own weeds.

While she certainly understands the enormity of her husband's role, she seems unfazed by its stresses. She brought no handlers to the interview for this story-nobody from the school to monitor, or even hear, what she says. And when it was time for her photo to be taken, she slid on a touch of fresh lipstick and said she won't waste time checking a mirror. Did her hair look OK? She trusted your answer.

"She's really strong-willed," said older sister Jennifer MacDonald.

"We had six brothers, so there was no room for crying and whining."

Amy and Luke, who live in Powell, dated as students at Ohio State. She gave up her career as a physical therapist to raise the kids while Luke pursued his passion, and

she's excited that he is fulfilling his lifetime goal at a place they love.

She's also happy to be in a city where she has family and, thus, a well-established circle of support.

"The best part for me here at Ohio State is my family's here," she said, then smiled. "And it's not so bad to watch your husband live out his dream."

Sideline life: A Q&A with Amy Fickell

CS: What was your reaction to Luke being named head coach after Jim Tressel resigned?

AF: It all happened so quickly. You know, it was a difficult way of going about being a head coach. I was excited for him, and this has been a goal of his for years and years, and he has worked and planned for it. But we loved Coach Tressel. So "bittersweet" would be a good word.

CS: Are you nervous about your family being thrust into the spotlight?

AF: I don't think I'm nervous. I think you start to become more aware of what's going on around your kids, and you start to be more protective.

CS: Where will you sit on game days?

AF: I sit right behind the team. Luke wants us to stay there. The kids want to stay there. And the kids love it-rain or shine.

CS: I'm so impressed you can get the kids to stay still for a whole game.

AF: The only reason it works is because I sit in the front row, with the bar in front of us. You can stand and cheer and look at the team, and Daddy's right there.

CS: Do the kids always want to talk to Daddy?

AF: Oh yeah! They scream and holler at him, and occasionally, on a very lucky moment, he might wink at one of them. But generally, he's busy.

CS: Landon has played flag football for three or four years, and Luke has only seen one game. How crazy is his schedule?

AF: I have to step up and be both parents much of the time. That's kind of how I can support him-by taking the weight of the family. It does teach you to not be selfish. But I think that's true for any mom.

CS: How often do you see him?

AF: We go to Panera on Friday mornings because they have a little bit of time on Friday mornings. We've always done that. Generally during the season, we get to see him on Thursday nights. Sometimes during the season we try to sneak down to practice on Wednesday nights. The kids love it.

CS: Any game day traditions?

AF: Usually the kids and I drive him to The Blackwell (hotel on campus) and drop him off. And after the game, it is my favorite point in time during the day: The kids and I wait and go onto the field with him and sing "Carmen Ohio" with the band. It's fun to see the kids get to be part of it. My husband previously coached linebackers, so my kids thought the linebackers were their friends.

CS: Has Ellen Tressel-or any other coach's wife-given you pointers?

AF: I've talked to Ellen a few times. I've talked to Barb (wife of Ohio State men's basketball coach Thad Matta) a few times. Ellen just said, "You will feel overwhelmed at times, and that is very normal." Barb has been great with advice about the kids. I've also talked with my friend Becky Dantonio. Her husband was previously the defensive coordinator here, and now he's the head coach at Michigan State. He had some health issues, so she said, "Just take care of him. Help him with stress. And just enjoy it."

All About Amy

On growing up one of 10 kids

Controlled chaos. We had great, loving parents-that's probably what I remember most. But just there was always something going on. And anytime anybody had friends who wanted to go somewhere, it was always to our house because there was always action.

On faith

I was raised Catholic-obviously with 10 kids (laughing). We go to St. Brigid of Kildare in Dublin. I think that's what keeps us grounded in all of this. Through any stress, we're grounded in our faith.

On finances

I do it all. My husband doesn't even know what his paycheck is. He does not know how to write a check out, I think. He doesn't need to worry about that stuff. So I'm partial accountant!

On chores

I always have to joke with my husband. He doesn't really do anything around the house. But we are all talented in different areas, and taking care of a house is not in his bag of tricks, so to speak. I do treat myself twice a month and have someone who comes to clean. I think I would get rid of my cable before I stopped doing that. Honestly, I would! My husband is not around, so I do have someone who mows my yard for me. But I do the weed pulling.

On "me" time

I get up at about 5:30. I have about a half hour of quiet time to myself, when I pray or whatever. Then I work out. If I have someone to help with the kids, I run. But I have a StairMaster, which has been my saving grace.

On her morning buzz

I have to have my coffee in the morning. If I don't have a cup of coffee, I am not myself. I like hazelnut right now. I like a flavored bean with cream.

On pet peeves

I do not like to be late. My quote to my children is, "Your time is not more important than someone else's."

On teaching at Vacation Bible School

This year I had 15 preschoolers, nine of which were boys. Now that's controlled chaos.

On spa time

I did pedicures and manicures with my daughter yesterday at our house. Does that count?

On indulgences

At night, when all of my kids are in bed, when my husband gets home-if he gets home-I like to have a glass of wine with him. A glass of red wine, just the two of us.

Quick Takes:

Favorites Restaurant: Lucé-that's our go-to.

Movie: I love "Hitch." I'm a very lighthearted movie person. I like a little bit of romance. I don't like anything sad. I don't like anything violent. And I don't like anything with really bad language.

TV Show: We watch "Extreme Home Makeover." The kids like that. Then I'll put them to bed and put on "Desperate Housewives."

Magazine: People

Book: I have a book that I did a study on called "Bringing up Geeks." I do believe instead of Lamaze they should require every parent or future parent to read this!

Store: Nordstrom, Von Maur, White House Black Market and Target

Accessory: A cross necklace from Luke. Other than that, I always try to put a red belt with something to make it scarlet and gray.

Cause: Luke has the 2nd & 7 Foundation (created in conjunction with his OSU teammates Mike Vrabel and Ryan Miller). Their motto is to tackle illiteracy. It initially started in second grades in seven Columbus public schools. Now, it's a nationwide program.