You give a woman a look, and sometimes she reciprocates and other times she puts her head down and paws the ground and growls like a hungry dog at its bowl. To some, love at first sight is a rare, mythic event reserved for characters in steamy romance novels and Saturday-night date pictures. To others it's as routine a part of the day as Jerry Springer and phone calls to the Psychic Friends Network.
The first time Angie Harmon ever saw Jason Sehorn, their eyes locked briefly as he was walking past her outside the home locker room at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. It was Sept. 19, 1999, and the Giants had just lost to the Washington Redskins 50-21 in their home opener. Harmon, who stars on the popular TV series Law & Order, was standing near an exit ramp when Sehorn, who hadn't played that day because of a hamstring injury, went walking past with his mother, Nancy Alexander, by his side.
"My girlfriend Lisa Livingston spotted him first," Harmon recalls. "She goes, 'That's Jason Sehorn.' And I'm like, 'My goodness, he's cute.' But he walks right past us. It's so funny: He's going in one direction, and I'm going in the other, and we're looking at each other and I'm waiting, but he doesn't say anything."
Harmon had attended the game as a guest of Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan and his wife, Jean, having heard from the couple that the recently divorced Sehorn was someone she might like to meet. The cornerback had been hearing the same about Harmon. Only that week he'd seen her picture in IN STYLE magazine. All right, he thought, Angie Harmon. That's the girl Strahan was talking about.
"So there he goes," says Harmon. "I said to myself, Huh, that's odd. But I could understand why he wouldn't stop. I was like, Well, Angie, he's just come out of something horrible, and you've just come out of something horrible [a bad relationship]. So why don't you pray about it? And that's what I did. 'You know what, God?' I said. 'If I'm supposed to meet this man, then I'm supposed to meet him. If not, that's fine.' But after he walked away, I was like, 'O.K., God, great. Thanks.' "
Sehorn's look, fleeting though it was, was hardly the first Harmon had ever attracted. A former model who has appeared in magazines like Elle and Harper's Bazaar, Harmon has been featured in the role of assistant district attorney Abbie Carmichael on Law & Order since 1998. Soon she'll star in the romantic comedy Good Advice with Charlie Sheen. "Except for maybe SportsCenter, I don't watch much TV," says Sehorn. "Tell you the truth, until Strahan brought her name up one day in the locker room, I didn't know who she was." Sehorn, arguably the most glamorous pro football player New York has known since Joe Namath quarterbacked the Jets a generation ago, is no less accustomed to being stared at than Harmon. At 29 he possesses the classic good looks mat in a more restrained era inspired furniture manufacturers to create fainting couches. He too has worked as a model, sometimes in clothes, other times largely without them, the corrugated sheet of his abdomen adjoining muscular slabs at his chest.
In the last two years advertisers ranging from Charles Schwab and Sprint to Tommy Hilfiger and Nike have turned Sehorn into one of America's most ubiquitous pitchmen. He has been a guest on Oprah and The View. But only three years ago Sehorn was known less for being pretty than for being as fine a defensive back as there was in the NFL—not to mention the only white corner-back in the league. His 4.3 speed in the 40 allowed him to run with any receiver, and at 6'2" and 215 pounds he could pound like a linebacker. Sehorn's fluidity and grace made him a marvel to watch, never more so than in a 1997 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings when he intercepted a Randall Cunningham pass and maneuvered past one would-be tackier after another on a 36-yard return that set up a Giants field goal.
"Jason was shutting people down," says Johnnie Lynn, coach of the Giants' defensive backs. "He had such confidence that year. He was competitive on every down, and he never wanted to leave the field. He was what you dream about for all your corners: the big size, the big arms, the ability to run and to hit. You knew, as his reputation grew, he'd become a Pro Bowl player year after year."
Then came Aug. 20, 1998, and the preseason game with the Jets in which Sehorn, returning the opening kickoff, tore both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments of his right knee. "My worst nightmare," said Giants coach Jim Fassel after the game. Lost for the season, Sehorn came back in 1999 with neither the skills nor the confidence he'd displayed two years earlier. Before training camp he bulked up to 232 pounds, although he already carried more muscle than ever, having undergone a rigorous rehab that kept him in training six days a week. While he still possessed a sprinter's speed, he was slow breaking on the ball and vulnerable against quick wideouts who didn't limit their games to straight-up-the-field go patterns. The aforementioned hamstring injury, suffered during an off-season workout, kept Sehorn sidelined for the entire training camp and the first two games of the '99 season, and he missed the last four games with a fractured left fibula.
"I played like a stray dog last year," says Sehorn. "I had less security, and I wasn't comfortable back there. I believed I could do the job, but the body and the mind didn't come together."