The Bodyguard

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Brown says Plevnik played two games with his team. "We never hold our guys back, and with the right coaching, he certainly had the talent to be playing for the NFL," Brown says.

After a friend arranged a tryout, Plevnik snagged a spot in late 2004 with the Miami Morays, who then played at the Miami Arena and were part of the National Indoor Football League. So he moved briefly to Fort Lauderdale and then Miami. Soon after arriving in South Florida, he learned of a modeling competition sponsored by the Wilhelmina Agency, one of the nation's top firms. He took third. "I only entered because the top three got a trip to Aruba, and I'd never been," he says. "They paid for everything — why not?" (Karen Medina, the Miami-based director of the agency's lifestyle division, confirms he worked briefly for the company.)

It was around that time that he met Michigan-born beauty Jill Ann Skrzycki, who as a 15-year-old was among the nation's top skaters before being hurt in the nationals. She performed for several professional companies in New York and elsewhere, then modeled with agencies including Wilhelmina after moving to South Florida in 2000. "A mutual friend of ours was throwing a party, and he wanted to introduce us," she beams. "There's Iztok standing on this boat surrounded by girls. We said 'hi' and that was it."

The next day, her friend called and said: "'Iztok really likes you.' And I thought, no way, he's a player," she says. "Yeah, he was gorgeous, but I thought his shy, nontalkative approach was just an act to get what he wanted."

Shortly thereafter, Wilhelmina called the five-foot-seven, 119-pound single mom about a local casting call for a Verizon TV commercial. "Guess who was there? Iztok." They both got the roles.

"He asked me out for lunch, and I said no," the brown-haired Skrzycki says. A few weeks later, the two were cast together again for a Bud Light commercial. "They were in an ad for responsible drinking that featured Cedric 'The Entertainer' Kyles," says Anheuser Busch spokesperson Gayla Daugherty. "The scene is inside a club, and Cedric was the designated driver, and he's waving his keys in the air. The clubbers see him and think it's some new crazy dance, so they start to follow suit."

When filming wrapped, the two went together to Segafredo on Lincoln Road. "He's talking about where he's from and what he's done, and I start thinking this guy thinks he's James Bond," Skrzycki says. "I'm not going to fall for that; he's full of it."

That spring, he finally played for the Morays. He didn't earn much with the team — he was paid per game, though he won't say how much — but an April 2, 2005, photo in the Miami Herald shows Plevnik and Ethenic Sands, a former University of Miami receiver, practicing at Gibson Park before the Morays' first home game. "I tried out for the Miami Dolphins," Plevnik says, "but they wanted to send me to NFL Europe. I had just left Europe, and I didn't want to go back, so I said no."

Patricia Lorie, who met Skrzycki six years ago during a day of boating, remembers the pair's courting and the wedding this past June. "They got married on a cruise that left from Fort Lauderdale and sailed to St. Martin and St. Thomas — in 40-foot seas," Lorie laughs. "I yakked the whole time! We had a tropical storm following us the entire way, and the boat was rocking so much during the ceremony, they had to take the cake apart because the tiers were going to topple over."

The couple now lives in Skrzycki's three-bedroom Miami Shores townhouse with her 12-year-old son, Zach Brockett. "I look up to [Plevnik] as a role model," the charismatic, sandy-haired teenager says. "He was teaching me kickboxing for a while, and I got to a red belt in tae kwon do. And you know what else? He's really good at cooking too."

"I tried a bunch of different jobs here in America," says Plevnik, grinning, "but I missed the bodyguarding. I wanted to get back into that world."

So in summer 2005, once again, he called up Fike and suggested opening a firm. "I worked for Uncle Sam for 26 years," says Fike, who retired from the armed forces in 2001. "I met a lot of people in my time, good and bad, and in our line of work, it sometimes pays to know both. Between us, we have the skills and the connections, so I said, 'Sure, why not?'"

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Joanne Green