The past year has been a big one for Kate Upton and Justin Verlander. From Verlander’s World Series win to the couple’s dreamy Italian wedding to, more recently, their pregnancy announcement, the Sports Illustrated model (and former Brides cover star!) and Houston Astros pitcher seem to be living their best lives. However, it hasn’t always been this idyllic.
In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Verlander opened up about the toll his slew of athletic injuries took on his career and mental state. But, during this same low point, his now-wife’s support never faltered. A year after the pair first met, Verlander injured his groin in a freak accident in 2013. The baseball pro underwent surgery in Philadelphia, where Upton accompanied him to pass the time with plenty of board games (especially Yahtzee).
Verlander’s recovery also solidified his parents’ infatuation with Kate Upton. Constipation happened to be a rather unglamorous side effect of his surgery, so Upton took action and stocked up on pills and “holistic movement solutions” to ease Verlander’s discomfort. “His parents say that was the moment they knew they loved me,” Upton says.
However, this was just the start of the athlete’s physical ailments. Fast forward to Verlander’s 2014 season with the Detroit Tigers, when he suffered severe shoulder pain that threw his pitching performance for a loop. People went so far as to attack both Verlander and Upton on social media because of it.
The season took another nosedive when Verlander’s coach asked him to get an MRI, at which point he “sat down and cried,” fearing his baseball career would be over. At a time he “thought was the end,” Upton swooped in to save the day. “She was instrumental in me not…like, jumping off a bridge,” Verlander told Bleacher Report. “I was depressed and kind of just upset at the world and trying to hide my own shit.”
The supermodel, who was no stranger to criticism, empathized with Verlander. After his MRI showed no signs of major long-term damage, his shoulder pain still persisted, at which point Upton insisted the physical therapy route. Her intuition was correct, and Dr. Annie Gow helped the athlete get back on his feet.
In 2016, after the pair got engaged, Upton helped Verlander make the decision to join the Houston Astros. “If she had been anything less than enthusiastic, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” Verlander says of the trade.
One World Series win later, the rest is history.