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 over a glass of wine (or whatever drink they choose). This week, she sat down with Laura Fajardo, former Wolf Pack soccer player and wife of ex-Wolf Pack and current Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback, Cody Fajardo. They talked about her future career in physical therapy, the challenges of living in a different country, Cody's career in the CFL, her time as a collegiate athlete, and some of Laura's hobbies among other topics.
Cody the magician
Laura met Cody while working a summer job at the dorms on campus. But once she got to know him, it was the magic tricks that stole her heart.
"I went to Brazil with the soccer team, so I had started a little later and my friend had been working there, so I asked her, 'Who’s new this year? Who’s coming back to work this summer job?'" Laura said. "She told me Cody was one of the people working, and I was, like, 'Oh, really? How is he? What’s he like?' And she was, like, 'Oh he’s actually pretty cool, mellow,' and I had built up in my mind that he was just going to be this cocky, all-about-himself type of guy. I go in the first day and he’s just cracking jokes, doing magic tricks and just completely humble and nice, and I was, like, 'Oh, not at all what I’m expecting.' So I definitely remember that because he was just not at all what I thought he was going to be like."
"How he starting talking to me was purely through magic tricks," Laura said. "So he would come every single day with a different magic trick at work, and I was just, 'How does he know this many magic tricks?' It was after day 10 of having a new magic trick, I can’t figure out how he’s doing this, he calls me out and says, 'You should come tomorrow with a magic trick,' and the competitor in me is like, 'Yeah, OK, cool, that’ll be great.' So I go home that night and I totally forgot that I had said that, and he messaged me on Twitter and said, 'I didn’t see you take home any cards. How are you going to learn a magic trick?' So that’s how we started talking back and forth was through magic tricks."
On a cold day winter day in December 2017, Laura and Cody made a trip to their old stomping grounds for what Laura thought was going to a family photo session at Mackay Stadium with the rest of the Fajardo family.
“It was like a movie," Laura said. "It was like the most insane and elaborate thing. He told me his family was going to come up for winter break and do an early Christmas celebration. We’re just setting up with our dog, Sulley, and all of the sudden, I start hearing Luke Bryan's 'Crash My Party' play, and this had been our song since 2013. He would send it to me and say. 'This is how I feel about you. Whenever you hang out, I’ll drop anything to hangout with you.' So I start hearing that, and at that moment I realize what’s happening and I was like, 'What is going on?'
"I started looking around, like, 'No way is this happening.' And he was like, 'Laura, turn this way,' and he turns me towards the big screen and it’s just a slideshow of us throughout the years and it’s just playing so now I’m sobbing. And at the end was a video that he had prerecorded of him explaining why he loves me, and I don’t remember the video I blacked out, but I remember him just standing behind me like patting my back awkwardly during the video as I’m sobbing and he doesn’t know what to do. So once that video ends, he gets down on a knee and proposes. I say, 'Yes of course,' and I jump into his arms, and then I hear massive amounts of screaming and I turn around and all of our friends and family were there, and I guess they were up in the press box and while I was facing looking at the big screen, they were sneaking down the stairs to get on to the field to watch and celebrate.”
Laura and Cody got married on March 16, 2019 and bought their first home in Reno earlier this year.
Playing in the CFL
After a standout career at Nevada, Cody signed with the Raiders in May 2015 and was waived a few months later. But when one door closes, another opens. Shortly after his time with the Raiders, he began his next journey north of the border.
"I feel like the hardest he struggled was after the Raiders let him go," Laura said. "He thought he had been doing everything, he was so stressed to perform well for them and then when they let him go he was, like, 'We’ll see kind of what happens,' and I was, like, 'Whatever you want. If this is the time you want to switch careers, that’s great. But if you want to continue, I’ll support you in whatever you want.' So then when he tried up in the CFL, I think that just fit him so naturally that I knew he was going to somehow succeed and somehow get to a point where he is now. It was more that he knew that no matter what happened he had me and our dog back in Nevada or wherever I was at the time to come home to, which is more calming.
"He wasn’t so stressed, like, 'I have to perform well. I have to make this team.' It was more, 'I’m going to try my best, and I’m going to do amazing, but if it doesn’t work out, or even if I get injured, I have the opportunity to then go home and have a life with my wife and my dog, which is nice.' It wasn’t ever this need to 'have to,' and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to encourage him was just whatever you want. Each game day, I would send an encouraging message just to try and keep him calm, keep him levelheaded just because I know what I need. You don’t want to get too high or too low, you just want to be, 'OK, I got this, I have the confidence,' and then go out there and he did amazing so it helped out.”
Cody signed with the Toronto Argonauts in October 2015 and made his CFL debut in 2016, winning a Grey Cup in 2017. He signed with the British Columbia Lions in 2018, before getting his first starting role with the Saskatchewan Roughriders last season when he was one of the CFL's top players.
Pursuing a career in physical therapy
While her husband continued his football career, Laura has worked on becoming a physical therapist.
"I got my degree in biology from UNR and I thought I wanted to be a PA, so I got certified as a phlebotomist, which is drawing blood, because I needed my hours, and I just couldn’t do that with soccer during school, and I moved down to Southern California," Laura said. "I also started working as a personal trainer just to make some more money, and I honestly did not like the phlebotomy because I thought I was the worst part of people’s day, like no one wanted to be there and I didn’t get to have that connection with my patients versus the personal training aspect. I really got to see progress and have patients that would be, like, 'Oh, I was strong enough to pick up my grandchild for the first time' or 'I was able to walk up stairs' and I just love that.
"But then they would come ask me questions about their knee pain or the back pain, and I wasn’t legally allowed to give them any advice because I didn’t have any sort of medical training, and so it was at that point that I just felt deep in my soul that I needed to kind of switch careers and start pursuing something in physical therapy, so that’s when I told Cody, and he was in Toronto, and I said, 'I think this is what I’m meant to do, and I have a lot more connections in Reno with physical therapy,' so that’s when I made the move back to Reno and found a job and started getting my hours there and now it’s been amazing."
Laura and Cody have lived on opposite ends of the country for the last couple of years. She's currently in Texas for clinicals. The long-distance relationship can be difficult, but the Fajardo's have made it work.
"The biggest thing is we’re each other’s number one support system," Laura said. "If I feel like I didn’t do well on a test or he has a loss, all we want is to be there and encourage each other and uplift each other as well as after when we do really well we want to be with each other to celebrate, and so that’s really rough, but I think the nice thing is we both know and support each other so much that when he's up there he’s bettering his career, he’s focusing fully on football, and when he’s gone I’ve been in school so I’m able to fully focus and spend long hours at the library or do those things without feeling guilty that we’re not spending time with one another. So in it’s own way it for sure has its moments of being really rough, but also it’s had its blessings because it’s allowed us to both improve while we’re away from each other and be what we want each other to be.”
Wine Wednesday topics with Laura Fajardo
- Moving to Texas – 0:00
- Finishing up school during a pandemic – 2:15
- The first time meeting Cody - 4:48
- What Laura misses most about competitive athletics/playing at Nevada – 7:13
- The proposal – 9:33
- Challenges of living apart in the US & Canada – 13:00
- Cody playing in the CFL – 15:08
- Best and worst parts of being a football player’s wife – 20:52
- Pursuing a career in physical therapy – 23:19
- Calling Reno home – 24:55
- Laura’s hobbies/favorite things - 27:45