- Associated Press - Monday, October 13, 2014

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - As Pistol Pete at Oklahoma State University, Derick Dillard learned how to deal with the public’s attention. The former local celebrity has turned into an international star with People magazine featuring his love story with Jill Duggar from the TLC television show “19 Kids and Counting.”

The reality program documents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s family with the eighth season focusing on Jill and Derick’s wedding planning. For Jill’s parents, it’s an emotional journey of giving away their first daughter in marriage and bittersweet as the family starts to realize that she will be leaving the close-knit clan to start her own family in this season of the show. Dillard said he looks at the television show “as a ministry to point others to Christ.”

Growing up in Rogers, Arkansas, Dillard followed his parents footsteps to college at Oklahoma State University in 2007. His home was full of Pistol Pete and OSU souvenirs, as his father, a former Stillwater police officer, was also Pistol Pete in the 1970s, making them the first father-son set of Petes. As an accounting major, he lived in Bennett Hall his first two years of school, played trumpet in the marching band and spirit band - mostly to get into basketball games - and pledged Beta Alpha Psi. Some of his best friends were active with him in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. His dad, the late Rick Dillard, died before Derick could share the news that he wanted to try out for Pistol Pete, too. But, the first time he tried out for Pete, he didn’t succeed, the Stillwater News Press reported (https://bit.ly/1CSNRzj ).

“I saw it as a challenge. It motivated me,” Derick said. “I talked to former Petes, especially with the 50th anniversary celebration (2008) with all the Petes coming back at homecoming. I got the opportunity to connect with them and learn more about what it means to be Pete.”

The second time around, he proved himself worthy to represent OSU as the mascot.

“It was the first time a father and son had become Pistol Pete,” Derick said. “I took that to heart, my job. I wanted to do my best.”

More than a year after his father’s passing, Derick now shared a unique bond with him.

“The thing about Petes and former Petes is that it is almost like a fraternity of men who have portrayed Oklahoma State’s mascot,” Derick said.

Between school requirements and the 200-plus appearances as Pete each year for different events, Derick played a careful balancing act to stay on top of it all - skills that help him every day now as a reality TV star and tax accountant for WalMart. He was used to television cameras with ESPN doing a story on the man behind the Pistol Pete mask, shadowing Derick on campus and around Stillwater.

Although as a distant relative of the original “Pistol Pete” Frank Eaton, Derick played the role of a real-life true character, he plays himself and shows his own personal character on the reality show.

The couple actually married in June and are expecting a child now.

“Being married to a Duggar is similar to when I was Pistol Pete - especially the game situations,” Derick said.

Pistol Pete was at the wedding in the form of a groom’s cake and memorabilia including OSU boots and holster on display for more than 1,000 relatives and friends at Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas, where Jill’s parents were married. His younger brother, Daniel, served as the best man.

“He wore a Cowboys shirt to the University of Arkansas football game,” Derick said of his brother’s loyalty to OSU.

Although battling cancer, his mother, Cathy Dillard Byrum, got out of the hospital to attend the wedding, too.

“Mom and dad got married as students at OSU so we’re all Cowboys,” Derick said.

The Dillard house was a very Godly home where Christ was the center of everything. Derick met Jill over Skype after being introduced to each other by her father when he was in Nepal doing humanitarian work. Derick used to be prayer partners with Duggar’s dad, who thought his daughter and Derick would make a good match.

Jill’s dad would also mention periodically to Derick that Jill was studying as a student midwife and she desired to someday use her skills overseas in the mission field.

“Being that we had similar life goals, she caught my attention,” Derick said.

It was love at first Skype with the two beginning a courtship.

A key element of dating was no hand holding allowed until they were officially engaged. The two had their first kiss at the altar.

Jill’s father believed Derick shared the same values as the family. In a new book called “Growing Up Duggar,” some of the 19 children state that sex outside of marriage is wrong - writing “It’s easy to put yourself into physical and moral danger and give into those emotions or sensual thoughts that promise pleasant, but only temporary, fulfillment.”

All of Derick and Jill’s dates were chaperoned. In an age of hookups and sexting, the two took what many would consider an antiquated approach to their engagement. They didn’t take each other for a test drive before marriage but waited to have sex until their wedding night.

For Jill and Derick, these old-fashioned concepts are ways of practicing self-control, a good thing, they said, for spouses to develop. It’s about setting a higher standard so you don’t struggle with temptation, Jill said. Derick agreed it is really important to save the physical aspects of a relationship for marriage.

The couple has figured out that part going from A to Z quickly after marriage with the announcement Jill is about three months pregnant now. Yet, they don’t know if they will have a Duggar-size family. Since Derick spent a lot of time with kids as Pistol Pete, he said he was ready for all the children in the Duggar family.

“We’re also open to adoption because my mom is adopted,” Derick said. “This will be her first grandbaby … only her third blood relative that she knows. We’re very excited about the pregnancy.”

But, will they have 19 kids?

Their answer: “We’ll see - and leave that up to God.”

___

Information from: Stillwater News Press, https://www.stwnewspress.com


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