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August 9, 2012

The Marrying Man: Kitchens in an exclusive club



Darrin Kitchens is a man of deep faith, so when God told him to marry his high school sweetheart Nathalie Jullot, he proposed almost immediately.

Only first, he had to make sure he heard God correctly.

"I knew that I wanted to marry her one day, but we were at camp with my church and I was praying to God and he told me to marry her. I thought it was me at first because I started apologizing to God because I said, 'Lord, I'm sorry I'm supposed to be praying to you, but I'm over here thinking of her.' Then he said it again and again. I got scared a little bit and thought, 'Maybe I'll do it tomorrow.' I was nervous."

During Spring Break with church friends at Camp Kulaqua in Alachua, Florida's junior strongside-linebacker woke up his girlfriend of nearly four years and said God wanted him to tell her something.

Initially, Jullot wasn't interested.

It was the middle of the night.

She was trying to sleep.

"I told her I didn't really know how to say this, but I told her God told me to ask you something. At first she didn't want to hear what I said because It was 4 a.m., but then when I said it her eyes popped out and she woke up and got all excited and told all her friends and everybody. Then my phone flooded with texts."

According to Kitchens, with God's help, he received a guaranteed, "Yes!"

"That's a tip for everybody," he joked.

While the junior linebacker is currently in an intense battle for a starting spot, he's also transitioning into a different role off the field.

The newlyweds tied the knot on June 23 at their Gainesville church, Spirit of Faith Christian Center.

Around 50-75 people were in attendance, including two teammates and Kitchens' position coach D.J. Durkin.

Fellow outside linebacker Gideon Ajagbe was the best man, and he gave Kitchens some sound advice right before the ceremony.

"I was nervous when I was up there," Kitchens said. "[Gideon] told me not to lock my knees, and I almost did and I felt like I was getting a little faint. It was a very exciting moment in my life."

The Jullot-Kitchens love-story started roughly seven years ago when Kitchens was a freshman at Homestead High in Miami. Jullot, a senior, broke his heart when she left for Florida Memorial University until the two reconnected several years later.

Now, Jullot is Kitchens' main support system and his biggest cheerleader.

When the pair first dated, Jullot wasn't particularly interested in football, but now she is, Kitchens said with a big grin.

Marriage has forced Kitchens to really focus on life and have a steadied goal for the future.

"It gives me a little edge because I have something a little more to push for," he said. "I'm not just fighting for myself out there."

Although Kitchens is the only married player on the team now, his situation isn't totally unique to the Gators. Florida's had two such players in as many years; defensive end Lynden Trail and offensive tackle David Young.

Kitchens, who called himself a trailblazer, said multiple coaches approached him with best wishes and similar counsel: Stay faithful. His teammates, meanwhile, were also happy for the linebacker and gave Kitchens lots of "Kool-aid sized smiles and congratulations."


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