It may have been the Wesmen women’s basketball team’s last game of the year on Valentine’s Day, but it was also the first day of Tia Ruddock and Ramon Burke’s life together as an engaged couple.
Ruddock, a 22-year-old player for the Wesmen team, proposed to Burke on Feb. 14 during halftime at the game. After two and a half months of browsing rings, writing her proposal speech, and steeling herself for the big moment, Ruddock managed to get Burke down to the floor by convincing him he was the winner of a "dirtiest car" contest.
"Earlier in the day, I gave the athletic director his licence plate number and the make and model of his car, so it’ll be his car that will be announced as the winner," Ruddock said.
Once Burke was on the court, Ruddock began her proposal speech — with much difficulty.
"I didn’t really get through the whole proposal because I was crying," Ruddock said with a laugh. "Everything in the middle was kind of, ‘Cry, cry, cry, say a word, cry.’"
Fortunately, Ruddock did make it to the end of her speech by saying, "I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life playing one on one with you."
Ruddock then switched off the microphone and cue card with her notes for the ring, which her coach was holding for her.
"That was the scorekeeper’s cue to play the music, so they played the song ‘Marry Me’ by Jason Derulo. Once the song started playing, I opened the box, and nobody could hear me but I said, ‘Will you marry me?’" Ruddock recalled. "He didn’t reply, he was just so shocked!"
Eventually Burke grabbed Ruddock’s hands and hugged her, which Ruddock took as a yes. She slid the ring onto his finger, and the couple hugged and kissed.
Ruddock got the outcome she desired, but she felt a lot of stress while the proposal was in the making — including searching for the right ring, bending Jamaican traditions, and considering what would happen if Burke were to say "No."
"I’m half Jamaican and he’s full Jamaican. From a Jamaican perspective, it doesn’t look too great (when a girl proposes)," Ruddock said.
For the most part, Ruddock received a lot of kudos from her mom’s side of the family and from a lot of women who respected and admired her courage to break conventional standards.
"I had a lot of girls say, ‘I could never do that, that was so ballsy of you,’" Ruddock said.
Ruddock said she decided to propose because this year had consisted of a lot of turning points for her and Burke as a couple.
"This past year, we’ve become really strong as a couple," Ruddock said. "A lot of things were being thrown at me this year, and I ended up completing a lot of my goals."
Some of those goals included graduating from Red River College, where she studied chemical and biosciences, only 10 days before the proposal and playing for the Wesmen women’s basketball team.
The newly-engaged applied biology major said she was glad she did the proposing, because she got to experience some of the pressure that men usually go through when it comes to courtship.
"It’s 2014 — we’re a whole new generation. So many people are changing things whether it’s girls proposing to guys or football players coming out of the closet," Ruddock said. "A lot of things are changing in society so I felt that by putting myself in his shoes, I could understand him a lot more too."