Tennessee fan Trey Barnfield didn’t let the Volunteers’ performance deter his happiness the last two times he attended UT’s game against rival Alabama at Neyland Stadium.
Two years ago, when Barnfield went to the game with Kalee McSwain, an Alabama fan, he asked her to be his girlfriend.
Barnfield selected the Third Saturday in October rivalry stage again this year to make another big move in their relationship. Barnfield proposed to McSwain during halftime of the Oct. 24 game.
“I thought, ‘Well, we probably aren’t going to win, but hopefully I’ll come out a winner,’” Barnfield said.
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McSwain said yes, in a moment captured on the Neyland Stadium video board.
McSwain, 29, is an Alabama graduate from Hartford, a small town in southeastern Alabama. A lifelong Crimson Tide fan, she came home from the hospital wearing an Alabama onesie after she was born.
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As a defensive mind, Saban does not like the change. He combats the difference by ensuring Alabama has an “explosive” offense, which he believes it has currently. Saban believes that part of the problem is the best players grow up playing offense and not as many play defense anymore. He feels Bama’s defense is currently average, but he’s trying to coach them up. It’s a long learning process because the defensive backs have so many passing concepts to learn.The change Saban identified has been evident in the SEC.
Barnfield, 29, grew up in the Nashville area, and he credits his dad for helping spark his Vols fanhood.
“Bless his heart,” McSwain said of her fiancé’s Tennessee fandom. “As long as he’s not an LSU fan or an Auburn fan – that would be a deal-breaker for me.”
McSwain made a wooden sign for their home that says "House Divided" across a football. She free-handed the design onto plywood, cut it with a jigsaw and hand-painted it, using skills she learned from when her parents owned a woodshop. Her handiwork incorporates a mix of Tennessee orange and Alabama crimson and features Tennessee and Alabama megaphones.
“I’m competitive, and so is she. I’ve always wanted a house divided. I wanted that competition,” Barnfield said. “I like being a little different. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted a house divided. I always thought those were the coolest stories.”
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Barnfield and McSwain met at a Christmas party hosted by a mutual friend in December 2017. Barnfield works for the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office, and McSwain works in criminal investigations for a private company. After meeting, they continued to bump into each other through their friend groups and they saw each other at the gym. By August 2018, they had started hanging out, leading up to their date attending the Alabama-Tennessee game in 2018 at Neyland Stadium.
Barnfield told his family that they’d know a proposal was coming after he sold his motorcycle, because he planned to use the proceeds to buy a ring. He sold his bike last spring, bought the ring and started considering the scene for the proposal.
The couple vacationed to Mexico in August. Barnfield considered proposing during that trip but decided to wait for an opportunity that would allow them to share the experience with others.
He settled on the Alabama-Tennessee game, but proposing while on the stadium's video board became an unplanned twist.
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Barnfield’s cousin, Justin Wilson, also attended the game and assisted with the pregame flyover in his role with the Tennessee Air National Guard. Wilson used that connection to quietly arrange for the proposal to be shown on the stadium’s video board. Barnfield wasn’t clued in on the plan, but when he saw himself on the video board he didn’t freeze up, and he successfully caught McSwain by surprise.
“He is the worst at keeping secrets,” McSwain said, “especially with me. I always can tell when he’s hiding something. He was acting completely normal – nothing out of the ordinary. So, it was very surprising.”
Added Barnfield: “It all lined up perfect. I couldn’t write a better story.
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