Lions' support of Olympian Melissa Gonzalez 'very special,' husband Blough says

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The moment was already magical for Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough. The supportive husband sat in the front row of the team meeting room, legs bouncing up and down uncontrollably, as he watched his wife, Melissa Gonzalez running the best race of her life. 

Gonzalez, an Olympic hurdler for Colombia, surged through the back half of her 400-meter prelim Friday evening, finishing in second place to qualify for Monday's semifinal with a personal best time of 55.32 seconds. 

Melissa Gonzalez, of Colombia, after competing in a heat in the women's 400-meter hurdles at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday in Tokyo.

In the days leading up to the race, the Lions made it clear they would make sure Blough was free of obligations and able to watch, but after talking to the media about it Friday morning, coach Dan Campbell made it a point to bring together the team's full coaching staff, along with several players, to support Gonzalez along with Blough. 

As Blough shouted words of encouragement at the screen, it wasn't until he turned around that he fully understood the support the organization was providing in Gonzalez's moment of triumph. 

"I knew some of the players wanted to watch and he made it available to everybody and brought the whole staff down," Blough said. "It made us feel so loved, man. I think that's the easiest way to put it. You may have seen the video of me going nuts. That's me whether it's the Olympics or whether we're running at a middle school and she's having to race her sister. That's just how I am. I turned around and saw the staff and it just hit me. That's one of those moments that I'll remember forever. 

"Turning around and people clapping, it was thunderous," Blough continued. "It was a thunderous roar from the coaches, coach (Mark) Brunell, Tanner (Engstrand), all the guys on our staff who I'm spending every day with and telling them stories. They're there going crazy with me so it was really cool."

Blough said he was able to share the video with Gonzalez, who was brought to tears.

"(It) made her emotional and cry," Blough said. "That's what it's all about. This is a family and it's what we're trying to build. It was very special."

Blough and Gonzalez met in high school and first started dating in 2012. Gonzalez would go on to run at the University of Texas, while Blough played football at Purdue. The distance made the relationship difficult and they separated for two years before getting back together in 2017. They married in 2019. 

There are obvious challenges in a marriage of two athletes competing at the highest levels of their respective professions, but Blough and Gonzalez have found a way to make it work. 

"You know, in college it was probably the biggest divider," Blough said. "Now that we're married, we get to be in the same house. When she's done in the Olympics, and maybe runs a few more races, she'll get to come to Detroit and kinda be my backbone during her offseason. We get to spend time together. Then soon as our last game is done, that switch flips and I get to go support her while I'm training. I get to drive her on the weekends and we make plans around her. It's really a special dynamic we've learned how to balance and have had to learn how to balance. It's definitely been rewarding in our first few years of marriage."

Melissa Gonzalez, of Colombia, competes in a heat in the women's 400-meter hurdles at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday in Tokyo.

On Saturday, a day later, and his 26th birthday, Blough was still beaming. He called Gonzalez's performance the best birthday gift he could imagine.

"Now she's got to go and try to make a final," Blough said. "She's going to run her best and give everything she's got, but yeah, it is validating. Her coach says, 'Hey, you belong. You belong at this level. You've strived, you've worked so hard, you've failed, you've doubted, you've done everything, you've had the injuries.' Now she's getting to run in the semis with a chance at the final and that's all you really need. All you need is a shot. It's one of those days, as a man, in my life I'm sure I'll have more if I get to have kids, but it's hard to put it into words."

Gonzalez runs in the third and final semifinal on Monday morning, with a scheduled start time of 7:55 a.m. EST. The top two finishers for each semifinal race will automatically qualify for the final, along with the two runners who post the best times and finish outside of the top two of their heat.