third-hour

Willie Geist's wife: He was 'memorable at first sight'

Nov. 12, 2012 at 10:14 AM ET

It's Willie Geist's first official day of co-hosting the 9 o'clock hour of TODAY, and his fellow anchors welcomed him with a look back at his life.

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Willie with his now-wife Christina, who he met in the sixth grade.

A special "Welcome Willie" segment featured testimonials from his wife, his dad, and new co-anchors, along with some choice photos and footage from his youth and early work in television (some of which he'd rather you didn't see).

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Adorable! Willie as a kid.

He's joining the crew after a long career in news, from CNN to "Morning Joe" to subbing in for Matt, all while apparently dabbling in a little amateur rapping (watch the video to see him quote the late Eazy-E; as his dad reveals, Willie "was a suburban kid who wanted to be a hip-hop guy").

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Willie strikes a pose; at Ridgewood High in N.J., he was captain of the football and basketball teams.

"I have to say your producers are beyond corruption, because there were several photos and moments that I offered cash payments for them to keep out of that piece," Willie sighed afterwards.

"We learned a lot about you this morning," joked Savannah. "We knew you got your start in television, but behind the scenes, we're sorry your rap career didn't work out."

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Willie on his first day of "Way Too Early."

But, alas, despite his inability to bribe the producers, it was a happy occasion for everybody. As Willie put it, "anybody who says being on the TODAY show for the first time isn't a little bit of a 'pinch me' moment is probably lying."

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The TODAY anchors welcomed Willie to his new 9 a.m. gig.
Way Too Early with Willie Geist
The host of msnbc's "Morning Joe" and "Way Too Early" became co-anchor of the 9 a.m. hour of TODAY.

Julieanne Smolinski is a TODAY.com contributor and fellow NWA fan.

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