Every Wednesday, Shannon Kelly will sit down with a coach's wife, a former Wolf Pack athlete or a woman in the Northern Nevada community to have a conversation with them over a glass of wine (or whatever drink they choose). To kick things off, she sat down with Kim Norvell, the wife of Nevada football head coach Jay Norvell. As a football wife, she has lived in nine states. While it may not have been easy, everything was worth it when her husband landed his first head-coaching job at Nevada in December 2016. Norvell talked about being quarantined with cystic fibrosis; experiencing nearly 15 bowl games; her husband landing his first head job and (maybe) being a cowboy at heart; as well as dealing with an Atomic Fireballs crisis.
Not letting cystic fibrosis define her
People who have cystic fibrosis don't plan for the future, Norvell said.
“Things have progressed a great deal in the last 40 years," she said. "I’m 51 and that was unexpected. I went to prom, I got married, we were able to be adoptive parents to our son, and we’ve done a lot of things that probably none of us planned for. That wasn’t a thing that happened. People died before they were my age. I think it's important for people to realize how much the contributing and the fundraising has done for us. It’s given me new treatments, medical equipment for respiratory therapy."
Saturday would have marked Nevada's Silver & Blue scrimmage and the second annual Grit Run, which helped raise money for cystic fibrosis. But that was canceled due to COVID-19. Quarantined at home, Norvell doesn’t leave the house often unless it’s to exercise or go to the mailbox. With a compromised immune system, Norvell and her family are already careful when it comes to reducing the spread of germs.
If you’ve been to the Norvell’s house, you know to take your shoes off at the door. When talk about the coronavirus was emerging, she would walk around the house with a thermometer in her mouth. She laughed because she said that’s not feasible. Norvell is somewhat used to the isolation required now because of her health conditions.
“I’d like to stay alive," she said. "I’ve done it this long with CF, diabetes and cancer. People that haven’t been used to that, I can understand that it’s way harder for them. It stinks for everybody.”
In it for the long run
The Norvells have lived in Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and Nevada, nearly a sixth of the United States.
“The coaching lifestyle, you are either in it or it's not going to work," she said. "We didn’t just go with him (Jay). I stayed home with Jaden and sold the house, would look at houses remotely, find a house, a new school, new doctors and dealt with the moving people and cleaning of the house. All of that stuff that has to be done. I think I’m pretty good at it now (because) I've done it so many times. I tried to do the best I could. I think the biggest challenge was just trying to do it all and stay healthy.
"I think the best thing about being a football wife is meeting new people, and experiencing new things. Bowl games have been a lot of fun. I've been to maybe 15, including the Super Bowl, and having Jaden be able to participate in all of those things as he’s grown up (has been great). We played at the national championship against Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez.
"It would be tough having birthday parties and trick or treating and not having Jay there, so you have to make up for it in other ways. I don’t know if by people realize how much the family sacrifices for sports. It’s not always unicorns. Sometimes Jaden and I would be somewhere together for 6 months before we moved. I know Jay appreciates the things we’ve done for him."
Calling Northern Nevada home
All of that moving paid off on Dec. 9, 2016 when Norvell was offered Nevada's head job.
"When he called me and said Doug had offered him the job, it was like this big release and I cried pretty good," Norvell said. "I felt like he should be a head coach, I’m sure everyone thinks that about their husband or partner. I see the way he treats the kids and the investment he makes in himself with the kids and their families and the work he puts in outside of a 12-hour day. He is always learning constantly. He doesn’t think he is done learning. The knowledge he brings and he is so invested in people. He wants everyone to do the best they can, in their personal development and in the players and coaches too. He is the kind of person that he wants everyone do well.
"I started crying at the introductory press conference, too. I’m a big baby. Jay likes to tease me that I'm hard on the outside and soft on the inside. I try not to be a big mushball, but sometimes I am. I want to be a part of their lives (the players) in whatever way that looks like. I would cook for them every day if I could. They say they appreciate me texting them to check in on them, the limited stuff I can do to hopefully add a positive influence in their life. "
The Norvells have called Reno home for nearly three and a half years now and will be in town for much longer after Nevada inked Norvell to a five-year extension this offseason.
"I think my husband is a cowboy at heart," Kim Norvell said. "One of his favorite movies is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, so Virginia City is the coolest place ever for him. He’s like a kid in the candy store. Obviously Tahoe is amazing. People come here to go on vacation and we live here. When you come around that corner and you see the blue, it’s hard to take a picture and have it express exactly what that looks like. It’s so calming and beautiful. You can just stare at the trees and the water."
We had to ask Kim if she likes Atomic Fireballs, the red spicy candies her husband is munching on constantly.
"I don’t like fireballs at all," she said. "I’m not a jawbreaker kind of girl, and they’re too hot for me. We almost had a full-blown crisis last week when he showed me his last fireball. I thought, 'Where are we even going to get them?' I texted my friend, Dixie, who gives me some blue and white M&Ms and Jay a bucket of fireballs before football season starts. I texted her '911 fireball! We're having a problem!' And she had a bucket for him so he could go by and get them safely."
You can view the entire interview below.
Wine Wednesday topics with Kim Norvell
- Quarantine life/having her husband working from home - 0:00
- Spring football/Inaugural Grit Run - 9:06
- Growing up in Wisconsin and traveling across the country as a football wife - 15:50
- Jay accepting his first head coach position at Nevada - 21:40
- Living in Reno - 25:18
- Being the team Mom of the Wolf Pack football team - 32:56
- Question from viewer Lorrie Ortega, "Where was your favorite trip?" - 37:35
- Atomic fireballs and final thoughts - 43:26