Aaron Ross, known for silky moves on the field, has rarely been smoother than he was last Valentine's Day in feting his girlfriend Sanya Richards, a 4 √ó 400-meter gold medalist at the Athens Olympics. With the help of Richards's sister and roommate, Shari, Ross planted gifts in Richards's Austin apartment throughout the day. At noon Richards found a talking teddy bear in a track suit who, in a voice suspiciously like Ross's, said that he would always love her. Later came an envelope with cash and a note, suggesting she head out to get a manicure and pedicure. Upon her return, Richards discovered a new black dress and another note suggesting she go to a certain seafood restaurant, where Ross waited with roses and chocolates. "I have to give it to him," says Richards. "He did a nice job."
The speedsters—Richards was an IAAF 2006 World Athlete of the Year; Ross won the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in Division I—began their relationship after Ross spotted Richards, then a freshman at Texas, at the Texas Relays in 2003. "I told my mother and brother I was going to get her when I got to UT," says Ross, who enrolled later that year. After meeting in the dining hall ("I tried to play like I had never seen Sanya before," says Ross), they had a date at Applebee's, an event Ross later immortalized in a poem containing the line, "On October 7, God dropped you from heaven."
Richards has forced humility on Ross, who recalls when they ran two 400-meter laps: He was spent; she was just warming up. "I became her water boy," says Ross. After Ross got tackled by a punter during a return in 2005, says Richards, "coach Mack Brown said that if I were on the field, I would have outrun the punter and been in the end zone."
Ross calls Richards "wifey," and they plan to wed in 2009. Before then, Richards expects to run at the Beijing Olympics and Ross hopes to go in the first round of April's NFL draft. He's in Arizona training for the NFL combine, so he needed a long-distance strategy for Valentine's Day. Said Ross, "Something will pop into my head."
CARLOS M. SAAVEDRA (CUPID)
JIM SEGMAN (ROSS & RICHARDS TOGETHER)
AL MESSERSCHMIDT/WIREIMAGE.COM (RICHARDS)
MIKE STONE/REUTERS (ROSS)