AUSTIN – Former TCU football star Vincent Pryor received an award Wednesday from LGBT advocacy group Atticus Circle.
But the award that highlighted his courage to come out to his teammates in 1994 was not the event’s surprise. It was his proposal to his partner, Alan Dettlaff, at the end of his speech that shocked the sold-out audience of 300 and brought them to tears.
“It was a beautiful, touching moment,” Atticus Circle Executive Director Ruth Gardner-Loew said. “People were in tears and it was wonderful.”
Pryor and Dettlaff met at TCU at the beginning of their junior year. Dettlaff announced in their social work class one day that he was gay and was starting a group for other gay students.
The announcement came months after Pryor had decided to commit suicide and was desperately seeking support.
The two became friends and the group Dettlaff began, TCU Triangle, came to inspire Pryor to reveal his sexuality to his teammates in the fall of his senior year.
The two began dating several years after they graduated after running into each other at JR.’s in Dallas. They live together in Chicago now.
Pryor said he and Dettlaff have been discussing marriage for a long time and he thought the event was the perfect place to propose after 13 years with Dettlaff.
“I thought doing it in Texas in my home state with my family there would be the best place to do it,” he said. “It was a blast. It was completely exciting.”
Marriage plans are under way, but nothing official has been decided, Pryor said. While he would like to get married in Texas, where he grew up and where he and Dettlaff met, he said the two are looking at New York or Seattle for possible wedding destinations.
Gardner-Loew said Pryor had asked the group’s permission to propose at the event, which was almost not a surprise, as Dettlaf almost found the ring while Pryor was packing.
At a planning lunch on Tuesday, Gardner-Loew said she told Dettlaff that Pryor wanted to recognize him for his supportive role he played in his college years by having him come on stage.
But at the event, Pryor continued to talk about how their relationship grew before kneeling on knee, pulling out a ring and asking Dettlaff to marry him.
“The look on Alan’s face, he was just completely, completely choked up about it and so totally taken off guard,” Gardner-Loew said. “It was so sweet and unexpected.”
The Leap Day proposal brought up some humor at the event, Gardner-Loew said, explaining that the tradition of women asking men to marry them on Feb. 29 denotes that the man must say yes.
While the two are not sure yet where they will marry, Gardner-Loew said a new tradition should exist for states to at least allow Leap Day marriages.
“We were saying if a gay couple makes a proposal on a leap year in the state of Texas or any other state where they don’t have the right to marry, then that state should be obliged to allow them to marry because it’s leap year,” she said.
Gardner-Loew said Pryor selected the event to ask Dettlaf because his family and supporters would be present and that marriage was “something that’s been on his mind for a very long time.”
“Vincent did it because he wanted to make a very public statement about his love for his partner and to show his appreciation, and he thought this was the absolute perfect window and platform to do it,” she said. “It was the perfect moment for him.”