Detroit Lions’ David Blough gets emotional rooting on Olympian wife Melissa Gonzalez

Detroit Free Press

David Blough leaned backwards in his chair with his hands on his head, then hunched forward nervously, cranked his neck and slapped the floor to let some of his tension out.

As Blough’s wife, Melissa Gonzalez, settled into her starting block for the first of four 400-meter hurdle qualifying heats Friday at the Tokyo Olympics, the Detroit Lions quarterback tapped his feet anxiously on the ground.

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Gonzalez finished second in her heat to advance to a semifinal race Monday as Blough celebrated wildly 6,000 miles away in the quarterback meeting room of the Lions’ Allen Park training facility, where an impromptu Olympic watch party broke out.

Shown in video released by the Lions, Blough sat in the front row of a large auditorium, alongside his fellow quarterbacks, as several teammates and most of the Lions coaching staff watched from the back of the room.

Blough, who is competing with Tim Boyle for the No. 2 quarterback job, said applause in the room was “thunderous” when Gonzalez pulled ahead of Team USA’s Anna Cockrell to clinch her spot in the semifinals, and that he was shocked and appreciative of Lions coach Dan Campbell’s gesture to briefly pause training camp preparations in support of his wife.

“It made us feel so loved, man,” Blough said. “I mean, I think that’s the easiest way to put it is you may have seen the video of me going nuts and I was telling them that’s me whether it’s the Olympics or we’re running at a middle school and she’s having to race her sister. That’s just how I am. I turn around and saw the staff and it just, it hit me. That’s one of those moments that I’ll remember forever.”

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Foreign family members are not allowed to attend the Olympics this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Blough said he has experienced the Games vicariously through Gonzalez.

The two have been in regular contact since she traveled to Tokyo earlier this month, even with the 13-hour time difference adding to their already hectic schedules.

“As a little girl who grew up watching track and dreaming about being at this stage, it’s a little glimpse of heaven (for her),” Blough said. “She told me a story about having a fluent conversation with somebody from Japan, where they spoke into their phone and showed her just the technology we have and how cool that is. They showed it and it said it to her in English and then she spoke into it and it came back in (Japanese).

“It’s just a little glimpse of everybody being brought together. I think that’s one of the special things about the Olympics. She’s made friends with other girls and guys there trading pins and the fun things athletes get to do in the village. Yeah, we’re kind of on Cloud 9.”

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Before elation set in, Blough was a ball of nerves watching Gonzalez set a new Colombian record with a time of 55.32 seconds.

He said he wasn’t worried when she fell behind early in the race because of her history of strong finishes. And as Gonzalez turned the final corner with one of four automatic qualifying bids from the heat within reach, Blough yelled, “We got to go, Mel,” repeatedly at the video screen showing the race.

“The hurdles are great,” Blough said. “You can always tell where they’re at based on when they go over the hurdle. They’re evenly spread apart so I can see if she’s at hurdle five and she’s in seventh place, but I know her back half of her race is stronger than her front half and by the time she’s at hurdle eight or nine she’s coming on second. I’m getting chills talking about it or thinking about it. She’s incredible. She’s dealt with so much over the past year and as a fan and husband, more so, I just wanted the best for her and she crushed it.”

Gonzalez runs her semifinal race at 7:55 a.m. Eastern time Monday, just before Blough and the Lions are scheduled to take the field for their first padded practice of training camp.

She likely will need to run a personal best to qualify for the finals, but with the 13th fastest time in prelims, nothing seems out of reach.

“She’s worked incredibly hard to be where she’s at,” Blough said. “She’s world class.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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