Wed to the NFL: The real lives of Arizona Cardinals' wives

PHOENIX - When it comes to professional sports, the Arizona Cardinals are some of the most celebrated athletes in the Valley. But, when they take the field to play in front of thousands, there's a specific group of fans not having such a good time.

"Every time Defense is in, I get anxiety," says Antonique Peterson.

She's just one of the Cardinals' players' wives.

"It's the exact same way for me. I don't go to the bathroom when offense is on the field. I don't hold a conversation. When offense is on the field, I'm all eyes on Levi," explains Lynnette Brown.

Offensive Tackle, Levi Brown and his wife, Lynette, have been married for four years. On Christmas Day, they're expecting a special delivery: a baby girl.

"She's just going to have him wrapped around her finger, I know it," she explains.

Julie met her husband of 11 years, Cardinals' Long Snapper, Mike Leach, when they were in college at William & Mary.

"He hates when I say this, but he was known around campus as the cute transfer boy," remembers Julie.

It was wedding bells one year ago for newlyweds Antonique and Cardinals' Cornerback, Patrick Peterson.

"We got married in New Orleans, that's where I'm from," says Antonique. "I just felt like a princess."

But if you think the life of an NFL wife is all glitz and glam, think again. Serious injuries happen. It's part of the game. For the fan, it's disappointing. But, for the family, it's terrifying.

"You're holding your breath waiting to see are they moving? Do they get up?" says Julie.

Every second of the game, these women say they worry about their husband's health because they understand a single injury isn't just potentially career-changing, it can be life-changing.

"My husband was out all season for his tricep," says Lynnette. As a wife, I have to mentally prepare myself to get him through the next couple of months, the next year of watching his teammates on the field."

So, these wives become the rock, a strong support system, taking care of the family and the home.

"When he walks in the door, I just want this to be safe place for him," says Julie.

These wives are always aware of intricacies of being married to a professional athlete.

'During the season, Wednesdays are long, tough days. If it's a serious issue that needs some serious discussion, that's probably not the best night," says Julie.

That can make it easy to fall into the trap of losing their identity to their superstar husband.

"It's difficult and it takes effort, but it can be done," says Lynnette.

In fact, she spends her time both on stage and off working within the Phoenix theater scene. Antonique is also working to pursue her dreams.  She's a first year medical school student.

"Now it's like, wait Patrick, I have to study. So, it's not all about you anymore!" she laughs.

Still, for these women, saying "I do" means agreeing to pack up your life in an instant.

"All of the sudden you get a call one day and you have to sell your home and get your kids in a new school in a new part of the country, you don't know anyone and that part's tough," explains Julie.

Then, there's that statistic from non-profit organization GamesOver.org . They say within three years of retirement, 85% of NFL players are divorced, broke, or dead.

"Mike and I have talked about that statistic. I think if we continue to put our family first, then, hopefully, we can avoid those kinds of things," Julie says.

In the end, these NFL wives will be the first to tell you: It's not the fame, it's not the fortune, and it's all about the family.

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