Defender of the weak. Wife of the strong. Meet Amena Jefferson Mebane, Deputy Prosecutor for the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office in Seattle.
On most days last fall, you could find this super woman wearing a power suit in a courtroom. But on Sundays, this LA raised, Berkeley educated super woman put her suit away and donned the jersey of her husband, the Super Bowl Champion defensive tackle of the Seattle Seahawks, Brandon Mebane.
While her husband battles offensive linemen on the field, Amena battles injustices in the courtroom. Her husband committed to giving his all on the NFL field. Amena committed her work life to making a difference.
Recently, I had the honor of interviewing Amena about her background, her job, and her family.
First things first. How did you and Brandon meet?
Brandon and I went to middle school together in Los Angeles, but I didn't know him. He remembers the color of my leotard from dance class and he remembers the scarf I would sometimes wear, which seems creepy! We lived blocks away from each other and we know the same people, but I didn't know him. We also went to college together, but I didn't know him there, either.
After college, I moved to Seattle for law school at the University of Washington. I hated it in Seattle my first year. I'm a Cali girl. It was always raining and always dark and cold. I didn’t understand why God directed me to Seattle.
One day during my second year of law school, I went out with some friends in Seattle. We were talking, eating some food and having a great time. I saw these two giant guys walk in. One of them started waving to me from across the room. I said to my girlfriends "who is this guy waving to me from across the room. I know he doesn't think I'm going to approach him." I just turned around and continued talking to my friends. Seconds later, I felt some air on my neck. I turned around and the guy that was wavingat me was standing right behind me, towering over me. He said, "You are Amena Jefferson, and you went to Audubon Middle School and you were on the Cal Dance Team." I was scared. "Who are you, I said?" We started talking and I realized he was from the same neighborhood as me. I told him I was here for law school. He told me he was with the Seahawks. I never imagined myself dating an athlete. I really wasn't too interested in dating anyone. I wanted to focus on school. At the end of the conversation, I gave him my business card and told him to call me if he ever needed legal help.
Apparently, he needed legal help as soon as he left because he texted me right away. I was focused on school and didn't really want to get into a relationship. But a few months later, I finally said yes I would go to dinner with him. He picked me up from my apartment in his fancy car. He rolled down the window and I saw that he had a sweat suit on and a toothpick in his mouth. I thought, "What the heck? Does this fool have on a sweat suit and a toothpick in his mouth?!" Now that I know him, wearing a matching sweat suit back then was actually "dressing up" for him; I'm still working on the toothpick issue. We went to dinner and had a great time. It meant so much to me that he was from where I was from. He is a man of God, which is really important to me. Once I went out with him, I fell in love with him and as they say…the rest is history.
I love it. Let’s back up a bit. How did you decide to be a prosecuting attorney?
Growing up in the inner city, I figured that I could help indigent people and give a voice to the voiceless by doing criminal defense work. Where I grew up, prosecutors and police officers were considered the "bad guys." I never in a million years thought I would be a prosecutor. However, in law school, I had a few African American mentors who werevery active in the community and doing great work for victims of crimes who were often times people of color, children and the most vulnerable members of our communities. These prosecutors were fair and ethical people who genuinely cared about the community and passionately worked to help those who were victims of crimes. I also loved doing trial work. I was very active in mock trials in law school (competing locally and nationally) and during my summer internship at the Prosecutor's Office, I did six trials. After that experience, I knew that I wanted to be a trial attorney!
What assumptions do your co-workers make when they find out you’re married to an NFL player?
I keep a low profile at work. I go by my maiden name and I don't wear my engagement ring at work, just my wedding band. The work we do is serious and important. I don't ever want the jury or anyone else for that matter to be distracted from the important work we do. Being Brandon's wife is a part of my identity but it isn't the only part of my identity. I want people to respect me as a great, hard working trial attorney as opposed to just respecting me as an "NFL wife."
I think people also assume that NFL players are all single, young guys that go out every night and have lots of followers. I think the media generally portrays the images of the young, unattached players. In reality, the NFL players that we have grown to know over the years are some of the most family oriented men that I've ever met. People that know me and Brandon know that we live a modest lifestyle and that Brandon is a God fearing, family man who values his family above all else.
An NFL player and a trial lawyer – I can’t imagine the work hours between the two of you. How do you balance being spouses with two demanding careers?
We are a great team! In the beginning of our relationship, I did most of the cooking. But, when I started on a trial rotation, it was impossible for me to cook every night. When I'm in trial, I stay at work very late, come home and continue working and barely get a few hours of sleep. Brandon does a great job of defying traditional gender roles. He takes initiative to cook when I'm in trial and even when I'm not in trial and he always helps around the house. We are committed to spending time together even if it is just for thirty minutes or so over dinner, or on a Friday date night. It was hard to travel to away games but I made it a point to travel to two or three away games every season (even if that meant I was trial prepping on a red eye flight). We just do a good job with supporting each other. Most importantly, we keep God first. Now, I'm on maternity leave and really enjoying the time we have together as a family. It's been great to support him at training camp and spend more time with my husband and my new baby girl.
It has been fun to watch the Seahawks' success – thanks in part to your husband's emotional play on the field. What is he like as a husband and new dad at home?
He is an awesome husband and dad! Every girl deserves a father like him. He is so patient and caring as a husband and a father. I know that the best gift I could have given my baby was such a loving father. He changes diapers and reads to her and he loves "talking" to her. People think Brandon is quiet, but he is a really funny, smart and fun guy. He is a great leader of our family.
Defender of the weak. Wife of the strong. Amena and Brandon Mebane are just one example of a great NFL couple who works to make a positive difference in the locker room, on the field, and in the community.
Thank you, Amena and Brandon, for allowing us to get to know you and your family.