Sara Evans and second husband Jay Barker are proof that sometimes second time's a charm. The country music star and the former Alabama football player have been happily married since 2008 after connecting over the pain of their divorces.
After graduating from Hewitt-Trussville High School in Trussville, Alabama, Barker had a storied college football career as a University of Alabama quarterback. He led the Crimson Tide to a national championship after beating the Miami Hurricanes at the 1993 Sugar Bowl, under the leadership of head coach Gene Stallings. Barker also won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and was a finalist in consideration for the Heisman Trophy, finishing fifth. He had a brief NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, but he never actually played in a regular-season game. He moved over to the Canadian Football League to play for the Toronto Argonauts. After three seasons, Barker moved back to Alabama to play for the Birmingham Thunderbolts in the XFL.
After 13 years of marriage to Craig Schelske, Evans found herself in a messy divorce in 2006 that forced her to drop out of Dancing with The Stars. The following year, the country star's minister, who she was going to for counseling after her divorce, connected her with Barker, another recent divorcee.
"He told us he'd never known two people more alike," she told AL.com. "He felt we could at least be supportive friends."
Evans, based in Nashville at the time, went out on a date with Barker. The couple immediately connected, and it was clear they had found something special. They even started spending time together as a group with their children from their previous relationships.
"We would get together with our kids as 'just friends,' " Barker recalls. "Before long, they told us we should be dating."
The following year, Evans and Barker were married in Franklin, Tennessee, surrounded by family and friends, and their children serving as the attendants. Evans' friend, songwriter Marcus Hummon, sung his country hit that he co-wrote with Rascal Flatts, "God Bless the Broken Road," as she walked down the aisle.
"He was our own personal matchmaker," Evan explained to People, describing her minister Joe Beam, who also married the couple. "I think God told Joe to get us together."
Evans and her children, Avery Jack, Olivia Margaret and Audrey Elizabeth, moved to the Birmingham suburbs with Barker and his children, Andrew, Braxton and twins Sarah Ashlee and Harrison. Barker moved on from football and became a radio personality. While he's currently an analyst on ESPN radio, he previously hosted a show, called the Opening Drive, with former Auburn kicker and Tennessee Titans star Al Del Greco and co-host Tony Kurre on WJOX. He also launched the Jay Barker Show in 2018.
While Barker is busy talking sports, Evans is still making music. She skyrocketed to fame with Born to Fly in 2000. She recently partnered up with her two children, Olivia and Avery, to release The Barker Family Band in 2019. The family recently relocated to Nashville before Evans's new album Copy That was released in 2020. She shared in an interview with She Rocks Podcast that she is focused on raising awareness for what it's like to raise a family in the music business.
"If you want to have a great family and a great home you have to do the work," Evans says. "It takes effort. You can't just let things go, everything is important. I'm hugely focused on making [my kids] self aware. It is not about having money, it is about teaching them to put others first and to be empathetic."
This article was originally published on May 27, 2020.