Honestly, I had to look him up on Google just to make sure I had his name right.
You see, I don’t really know him.
I only talked to him once, really. Actually, he talked to me…I know, I was quite surprised too.
Back in 2011, I transferred to St. Mary’s College of California after having a rough freshman year at University of Arkansas. I’m not sure if it was my parents divorce, going from being homeschooled my whole life to taking classes in gigantic auditoriums, or just living in The South that made my first year of college hard, but it definitely was. At St. Mary’s, I had high hopes for a new start, a better few years of college. I wanted the “Best time of my life” that all alumni talk about when they think back to the “Good ol’ days.”
From the first week of school at SMC, I had heard the name “Delly” passed around. Coaches talked about him like he was some angel sent from above. Our coaches kept using his name in examples in some desperate effort to try and inspire us when I didn’t even know who the hell this guy was. How could a guy named “Delly” be so influential anyway? What kind of a name was that? Other athletes had seemed to be sucked into the entire Delly craze too though. I would hear talk about him in the training room, in the gym, and even on my way to class. Student-athletes and students alike used his name as if it had more power then Voldemort: instead of being the man who should not be named, Delly was the man whose name was always being used.
The first time I saw him, he was simply walking down the sidewalk from the training room. Girls from every corner were gushing. Lululemon wearing girls, sweaty softball playing girls, injured doing rehab in the training room girls, studious book holding girls…Every girl followed his walk. Sure. Okay, whatever, I thought. The way people were so charmed by him immediately had me on guard. I mentally told myself that he was getting plenty attention from every girl on campus, he didn’t need me gushing on top of that. I didn’t want to be every girl on campus. Besides, he was probably so used to getting attention that even if he was an OK guy, he most likely had been groomed to be the center of the room. I imagined him whining when he didn’t get every single person to look his way—and I had to imagine it, because everyone always did look his way when he was around.
I think it was my third week at school when it happened. The demigod of a man spoke to me. I was in the training room, and we were both holding plastic bags waiting to get to the ice that athletes seem to never get enough of. I saw him behind me waiting, and immediately rolled my eyes and looked away. Oh God, it's "him," I said to myself sarcastically. Maybe he had had this entire school fooled, but not me. Not yet, at least.
“Hey, you’re on the tennis team, right?” He asked in his Australian accent.
“Um… Yeah.” I was taken by surprise. I had thought he was "too cool" to care or strike up a conversation first.
“Right. I think I heard you transferred. I hope you like it here. It’s a fun school.”
“Thanks. Yeah…It seems fun.”
“I’m always trying to get my team to come out and watch some of the tennis matches. We’ll come out when you guys are in season and cheer you on. We’re a small school, so we know how good it feels when people come to support.”
“Yeah. It is actually pretty awesome. No one comes to tennis matches.”
“Well, we will be sure to stop by. Anyway, hope you’re having a good time. Just remember, the first month is always the toughest in a new place. It was for me, especially so far from home."
“See ya 'round.”
Delly left. And I watched him walk out the door...as did the rest of the entire staff and athletes that filled the training room. I couldn’t believe how down to earth he was. I couldn’t believe how kind he was. I couldn’t believe how…
I had made so many terrible assumptions about him. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought, “Hey, everyone loves him, he must be a great guy.” I couldn’t believe I had wanted to assume he was a stuck up athlete that only wanted more and more attention. I had felt so guilty. And the more I saw him around school, whether it was on the court, in the cafeteria, or when he was speaking up on stage, the more I understood why Delly was essentially The Gael that every single student chose to be inspired by at our school.
We never talked much after that. He always said hi when I passed him - and he extended his friendliness to everyone equally. I never got to know him well, but I had watched him quietly in admiration like most of our school had. With only one memorable conversation while getting ice (that was quite plain and matter-of-fact), I have to say that I am honored that I was able to attend SMC while he was there. I see him on TV now living the dream, and I think, “Hell yes! Finally. One of the good guys, the guy that says hi in the hallways, made it.” And that, folks, makes me happy.
I don’t know Delly well. I probably should be calling him Matthew or Mr. Dellavedova. But the truth is—and I make this on no assumption— everyone loves him and it’s because he is a great guy.