The Citadel’s married man

Citadel defensive tackle Derek Douglas is a fifth-year senior, newly married and a team captain this season. (File photo)

When Derek Douglas dressed up in the pantaloons and Robin-Hood-style tights and kissed the girl in the long red gown on that high school stage six years ago, little did he know that he’d found his wife.

Douglas and the girl, Bevin Green, played the leads in the Sachse High School production of “Once Upon a Mattress” back in Garland, Texas, sharing their first kiss in an auditorium filled with people.

Last May, Derek and Bevin kissed again during their wedding ceremony in Dallas, making Douglas — a fifth-year player and all-Southern Conference defensive tackle — the first married Citadel football player in recent memory.

Citadel cadets are not allowed to be married, but Douglas graduated last year and is in graduate school while playing out his fifth and final season of eligibility.

Life as a married college football player is different, Douglas admits. He and Bevin carried on a long-distance relationship until they were married last May and Bevin moved to Charleston.

“Now, I have my wife here with me,” Douglas said. “She’s always heard about how well I do in football, but now she’s here and I’ve got to prove it to her.

“I’ve always played for her and for my teammates, but now it’s a different kind of pressure. I’ve got to prove to her, to my coaches and my teammates that I’m just as alive and motivated for football as I’ve always been.”

Motivation has sometimes been an issue for fifth-year players at The Citadel, whether married or not. They have survived the rigors of the military school, earned their rings and diplomas, and are free to live off campus and wear flip-flops and shorts during the day.

The Citadel has 10 fifth-year players this season, the most in coach Kevin Higgins’ nine seasons.

“They’ve gone four years in a structured environment unlike anywhere in the country,” Higgins said. “Then they have all this freedom.

“We’ve had guys who’ve had incredible fifth years, and guys who didn’t progress as you’d like, so we talk to all those guys about the challenges they will have. With Derek, it’s even more different as a married guy. He has to understand his responsibilities to his wife and to his teammates, especially as a captain.”

The captain’s wedding party in Dallas boasted a large group of groomsmen. They included Citadel players Jim Knowles (6-0, 315) and Bay Amrhein (6-2, 235) and former Bulldog Chris Billingslea (6-5, 265) as well as Douglas’ brother, Drew, a 6-1, 225-pound sophomore linebacker at Texas-San Antonio.

During the summer, when the Bulldogs had “voluntary” workouts at 5 a.m., Douglas lived on campus with his teammates. Now he and his wife live off-campus, where she works long-distance for an architecture firm in Dallas, and they are free to share their love of grilled cheese sandwiches (her) and Heath candy bars (him).

And the Bulldogs, of course, are free to make fun of the old man, who will turn 23 on Sept. 21.

“I’ve been getting old-man guff forever,” Douglas said. “Even back in high school, I was the baby-sitter and they called me old man.”

Now, he’s an old married man.