Matt James Was Suni Lee’s Biggest Hype Man As He Fulfilled A DWTS Promise
His “Auburn Dad” shirt is everything.
Dancing With the Stars Season 30 has come and gone, but the friendships remain. Matt James proved that by traveling to Alabama to support his fellow DWTS alum Sunisa Lee at an Auburn University gymnastics meet on Friday, Jan. 28. Joined by his girlfriend, Rachael Kirkconnell, the former Bachelor even wore an “Auburn Dad” T-shirt as he cheered on Lee.
“Suni brought me here,” James explained in an ESPN interview during the meet. “We made a deal when we were doing Dancing With the Stars that I was going to come to a meet. I brought Rachael down, my girlfriend; she used to be a gymnast as well, so it’s just awesome to see all these women compete.”
It was the reality show vet’s first-ever meet, and he had nothing but good things to say about the experience. James emphasized that he has “so much respect for these women” and their athletic ability, plus shared his appreciation for the enthusiastic fans. “The energy in here is crazy,” he said. “The Auburn fan base is stupid. It’s been so much fun being out here.”
Even Auburn head coach Jeff Graba was impressed by the crowd. He described it as “probably the craziest [he’d] ever been a part of,” per Opelika-Auburn News. The fact that Auburn Arena was sold out presumably played a large role in that, but it couldn’t have hurt that James took on the role of hype man and went around pumping up the fans.
It was an important showdown for Lee and her Tiger teammates. They faced their rivals, the University of Alabama, and the Olympic champion was competing the all-around for the first time since she joined her NCAA team. The pressure didn’t pose a problem, though. Auburn came away with the win, 197.525 to 197.125, and Lee’s 39.700 was first in the all-around.
Funnily enough, the person the stress really got to was James. “My heart was racing when she was on the beam,” he told ESPN, adding that he feels like an older brother to her and doesn’t “want her to hurt herself.” Luckily, Lee had a meet to be proud of, and she later called the experience “amazing.”
“This whole week I feel like the team trained so differently,” the gymnast said, according to Opelika-Auburn News. “We were hungry. We wanted to get in there, we wanted to beat Bama. We felt like we had something to prove and we felt like we did exactly that. We enjoyed every single moment.”
It looks like James and Kirkconnell can say the same about their trip. Their Instagram stories and posts captured some of their special moments with Lee, and Kirkconnell even promised they’d be back.