Spencer Maxwell is always on standby for his next adventure.
He lives in search of the steepest cliff, the biggest wave, the fastest stretch of asphalt.
When he graduated from Stratford Academy six years ago, his classmates voted him “most original” in the “senior superlatives” section of the yearbook.
Those same classmates would hardly raise an eyebrow if they learned he might not be able to attend the next reunion because he was off running with the bulls at Pamplona or secluded on an island as a contestant on “Survivor.’’
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“I didn’t take the normal route,’’ he said, laughing. “I like the high speed of things. I’m down for trying anything new.’’
In no particular order, he has jumped out of an airplane, roped cattle, earned his second-degree black belt and ridden away on a Harley.
In high school, where he was a state champion wrestler, he was the youngest to be accepted into an “Extreme Navy SEAL” program.
At The Citadel, where he majored in criminal justice, he would sneak out at night by rappelling from his dorm room.
Until last November, he was a member of the SWAT team with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
But none of his thrilling exploits could have prepared him his adventure over the past 11 months.
He is dating Miss America.
When he met Betty Cantrell in March 2015, he had no idea how much the next six months would change the trajectory of his life.
He had never been to a pageant. He had never even watched one on television.
His theme song was more “Born to be Wild’’ than “Madame Butterfly.’’ His background was Tasers, not tiaras.
Betty’s reign will come to an end in two weeks. A new Miss America will be crowned on Sunday, Sept. 11, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
It also will be curtains for Spencer in his unofficial role as America’s first beau.
The Miss America organization doesn’t necessarily frown on its beauty queens having boyfriends, although it prefers that the guys stay in the shadows and not make any unnecessary noise.
So Spencer has had to make the switch from full throttle to low-key.
“Betty and Spencer balance each other beautifully,’’ said Spencer’s mother, Pam Maxwell. “When he gets vamped up, she will adoringly tell him he needs to take an aspirin.’’
Rick and Pam Maxwell have had to keep their own supply of aspirin within arm’s reach since Spencer arrived in the world on Dec. 13, 1991. Rumor has it he came attached with a bungee cord rather than an umbilical cord.
Pam gave him the nickname “Spinny,’’ a spin-off of Spencer, and “Moose,’’ after the character from the book, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin.’’
“He was born a free spirit, and we never tried to harness it,’’ Pam said. “He had an amazing imagination and energy.’’
Spencer has dared to stay ahead of every curve. Brakes? Who needs ‘em?
His parents took the training wheels off his bicycle when he was 3 years old. He went parasailing and was riding a skim board on the beach at age 4. Pam would drive him to the skateboard park at Central City Park and watch him do amazing tricks on the ramps. He trained in karate and Brazilian jiujitsu. He taught himself parkour, a form of extreme gymnastics developed from military obstacle course training. He could run up part of the side of a wall and do a backward flip.
In the ninth grade, Pam dropped him off to get a haircut. When she picked him up, his head was shaved. He announced he was either joining the Marines or going to The Citadel. He did his high school senior project with the Macon Police Department. They made him an honorary officer.
TATTOO OR SKYDIVING
Still, there was more to him than a reputation as an air-to-surface missile. He played baseball at Vine-Ingle Little League and was the first recipient of the Mike Weaver Award for sportsmanship.
When he turned 18, he gave Pam a choice. She could either get a tattoo with him or go skydiving with him. She chose the skydiving.
“I have always loved and encouraged his shenanigans,’’ Pam said. “We will be in the ocean, and a small school of fish will swim by. He will catch one and swallow it to my delight and the horror of others.’’
Serendipity was working overtime when Spencer and Betty met 18 months ago.
They grew up in different circles on the same turf. He is 24. She will turn 22 on Thursday. He lives in Macon, went to Stratford and attended Martha Bowman United Methodist Church. She is from Warner Robins, commuted to Mount de Sales Academy and her family worshiped at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Macon.
Although they like to believe fate might have stepped in and they would have met each other anyway, technology gets an assist on the play.
Spencer calls it something of a “fluke’’ that they both logged onto “Tinder,’’ a location-based mobile dating app that allows matched users to chat.
“She got on it one time,’’ he said. “And that was the first and last time I got on it.’’
They swiped enough buttons to make a match and found enough common ground to meet at Margarita’s Mexican Grill on Zebulon Road. They also learned they had a mutual friend — Mary Kate Hunnicutt, a former member of the University of Georgia Georgette dance team. Mary Kate lived next door to Spencer and grew up taking dance classes with Betty.
“It was something I had never experienced before in terms of liking someone right off the bat like that,’’ he said. “I love everything about Betty. When she walks into a room, there is a special light that she gives off.’’
The whirlwind began when she was crowned Miss Georgia three months after they started dating. Three months later, she joined the late Neva Langley Fickling as the only Miss Georgia to become Miss America.
Several times during the pageant, the TV cameras panned the audience where Spencer was sitting next to Betty’s brother, Mike, and sister, Sophia.
“It was amazing,’’ he said. “I was so proud of her. I was able to appreciate all the hard work she put into it.’’
The glare of the spotlight and scrutiny of the microscope was ubiquitous.
Immediately after Betty won, Spencer posted on his Facebook account: “My girlfriend won Miss America.’’
Then he promptly deleted his profile. He will re-activate the account after her reign is over.
He has accompanied her to numerous local appearances, but never in the capacity of “boyfriend.’’ He stays in the background.
Not long after she was crowned, Betty and Spencer got teacup Yorkies and named them “Moose” after Spencer and “Batman” because one has pointed ears. Spencer watches after the dogs while Betty is traveling.
Because they are often apart, they talk on their cellphones every night. Sometimes they will watch a movie together, streaming it across the miles on Netflix. Spencer would be more likely to watch “Saving Private Ryan” than “Saving Mr. Banks.’’ But it was Betty’s turn to pick one night last week, and she wanted to watch the movie about Walt Disney and P.L. Travers, the woman who wrote Mary Poppins.
Together, they are forming a company called Maxwell Team Productions. It will handle Betty’s future speaking engagements and vocal performances. Spencer will be her manager, provide security and “support her like I have been and always will.’’
He has never been able to wipe the grin off his face from the night she became America’s sweetheart.
“That’s my girl,’’ he screamed when they called her name.
She still is.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism, creative writing and storytelling at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears Sunday in The Telegraph.