The past year was a terrible year for many, but Craig County native Carly Whiting and former Virginia Tech football standout Wyatt Teller will have some good memories of 2020. Whiting and Teller got engaged on the Cleveland Browns football field on December 21st, and Teller helped lead the Browns to their best season in 26 years.
“We’re so excited, he proposed to me in the coolest way,” said Whiting, a 2009 graduate of Craig County High School. Carly’s mom, Melissa, is the principal at Craig County High and her dad, Bud, is a well-known figure in the county as well.
With Teller playing for the Browns, the video of the proposal was shown on ESPN as Wyatt proposed on the fifty yard line of FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Carly had suspected something was up when Teller had asked for her ring size not long before the proposal.
“We had talked about our future, but I thought something might happen after the season,” said Whiting. “I was getting ready to come back to Virginia for Christmas and he had a half day of practice on that Monday. We were on our way to a Christmas party and I almost wore a ‘Santa Baby’ sweater. I’m glad I didn’t.”
The Browns practice facility is about a 20 minute drive from the stadium. Wyatt told Carly he left something at the stadium and had to drive there to pick it up.
“It was super believable,” she said. “He’s somewhat hyper and he’s done that before. He told me the security guard at the stadium only had a certain window when he could let him in and we had to be there at that time. That’s happened before.”
The security guard let them in, but Teller then escorted Carly to the field. They walked to midfield, arm in arm, as the fan vision played a video that Carly’s older sister, Rachel, had made for the occasion. Rachel is also a Craig County graduate who is now a lawyer in Roanoke. When they got to midfield Teller got down on one knee and proposed. An obviously emotional Carly quickly accepted.
“Honestly, my reaction was so genuine,” said Whiting, who could be seen hopping up and down with joy on the video.
And that was another win for the Browns, who have now added Carly to the official family. She’s been attending all the home games and some of the road games when the coronavirus pandemic guidelines allow. For the games Carly sits with some team family members near the tunnel where the Browns take the field. She’s gained some new friends in the past two years, and quarterback Baker Mayfield’s wife Emily was one of the first to congratulate her when Carly broke the news on her Instagram account the following night.
“I’m a social butterfly so I’ve made some really good friends,” she said.
Teller and Whiting both went to Virginia Tech, but that’s not where they met. Carly attended football games but had no idea her future husband was wearing the maroon and orange in Lane Stadium.
“I went all the time but I never even noticed him,” said Whiting.
Teller is also from Virginia, born in Manassas. He was a standout player for Liberty High School of Bealton and the now 6’4”, 315 pound lineman chose the Hokies over 15 other FBS programs who offered him a scholarship. He was in Frank Beamer’s last recruiting class, recruited as a defensive end.
“He’s very proud of being in Coach Beamer’s last class,” said Whiting. “He told me the story of Bud Foster coming to his house, and that was very exciting for him.”
Teller didn’t disappoint in Blacksburg. After moving to the offensive line he was named to the All-ACC first team, and after his senior year he was the runner-up for the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the top lineman in the ACC. He was invited to the 2018 Senior Bowl.
Teller was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fifth round of the 2018 draft. It was about that time that he first met Carly.
“We met through a friend in Blacksburg,” she said. “He had just gotten drafted by the Bills and was training for football.”
Teller opened the 2018 fall season as a backup guard but earned a starting spot by Week 10, starting the final seven games for the Bills. The following year he went to camp in Buffalo, but on August 29 of 2019, just before the season, he was traded to Cleveland for two draft picks. He became a starter in Cleveland by mid-season and for the past year and a half he’s credited with being a key member of the Browns heralded running game, which is one of the very best in the NFL.
Carly moved to Cleveland in 2019 to be with Wyatt and the two have grown to enjoy the city by Lake Erie. It’s a little colder than Virginia but, “Wyatt doesn’t mind the cold,” she said. “We love it here. The city loves the Browns and they’re really excited about the team. It’s a cool city.”
In the past two years the Browns have started turning things around. They had the longest streak of not making the NFL playoffs prior to their win over Pittsburgh on January 3rd in Cleveland. That clinched a wild card berth for the Browns and gave them an 11-5 regular season record, their best since they were also 11-5 in 1994. They’ve only won more than 11 games in the regular season four times, and three of them were in the old All-American Football Conference from 1946 to 48 with Otto Graham at quarterback. The Browns didn’t join the National Football League until 1950.
While the Browns struggled with a dozen straight losing seasons prior to this year, the Cleveland fans never lost faith. “Believeland” has always been a football town and when Pittsburgh failed to make a two point conversion in the waning minutes of a 24-22 win on the last Sunday of the regular season, the Browns punched their ticket to the playoffs.
“It was very exciting,” said Whiting, who was joined at the game by Northside High graduate Samantha Barney. Both Carly and Samantha were outstanding volleyball players in high school and played on the same travel team. Bailey now works in the marketing department for the Detroit Lions so it wasn’t a long trip to join Whiting in Cleveland for the game. Samantha had previously worked for the Salem Red Sox baseball team and then for NASCAR in Miami, Florida.
Then, last Sunday night, the Browns won their first playoff game since ‘94. In fact, that franchise has since moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens and Cleveland returned to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.
What made the win even sweeter was that it was against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns scored 28 first quarter points, an NFL playoff record, and went on to a 48-37 win. That broke a string of 17 straight losses by the team in Pittsburgh.
“I never realized how big a rivalry this is,” said Carly. “They hate the Steelers in Cleveland.”
This weekend the Browns will play the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at 3:05 pm on Sunday in Kansas City. Cleveland is one of just eight teams still alive in the NFL playoffs.
In the meantime Wyatt was named to the Associated Press All-NFL second team at right guard. During Sunday’s telecast analyst Cris Collinsworth called Teller the best guard in football, and with a fiancée who plays in the NFL Carly has picked up some knowledge about the game. She really can’t avoid it.
“I cared about football when I was at Tech, and now all Wyatt’s meetings are on zoom and I can hear them,” she said. “It’s hard not to hear football talk around here.”
With the pandemic Wyatt couldn’t train at the Browns facility during the summer. Instead, he came to Roanoke and trained with Ryan Shuman, a former offensive guard for the Hokies who is now a member of their strength and conditioning staff.
“He trained with Ryan in his garage with just the basic resources,” said Whiting. “Ryan’s amazing, and he’s one of the reasons Wyatt was one of the top guards in the league this year.”
COVID-19 struck Carly during the fall, but Wyatt was able to dodge a bullet. In fact, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski and several players and coaches missed the playoff game due to COVID.
“After the Nashville(in December) game I bit into a cheeseburger and I couldn’t taste it, so I knew something was wrong,” she Whiting. “I spent 14 days in the house and lost my taste and smell, then I got a fever and was fatigued. I was wiped out.”
Luckily for the Browns Wyatt did not catch the virus and was taken off the watch list in time to play in the big games against the Steelers. He had missed two previous games with an ankle injury.
Teller has one more year on his rookie contract, then figures to cash in big as one of the top guards in the NFL. Wyatt and Carly would love to remain in Cleveland. She’s working for a salon there, they have a puppy and are happy as can be.
Meanwhile back in Virginia, the Whitings are excited to be adding to the family. Melissa has been coping with the pandemic in school and Bud has been battling a case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that has affected his health. The good news about Carly was very welcome.
“We’re excited,” said Melissa. “Wyatt is a really good guy and very humble. He’s a Virginia boy and he fits right in. We love him.”