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Zach Gilford Opens Up About Fatherhood and ‘Mama Lion’ Kiele Sanchez (Exclusive)

Zach Gilford Kiele Sanchez Fatherhood
Kiele Sanchez and Zach Gilford arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of DirecTV's "Kingdom" held at Harmony Gold Theater on May 25, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Clear eyes, full hearts, no more sleep! Zach Gilford was all in when his wife, actress Kiele Sanchez, suggested that they name their baby girl Zeppelin Adele.

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“After our first ultrasound Kiele texted me and she was like, ‘The name came to me.’ And I said, ‘What is it?’ And she told me and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I love it,'” he recalls exclusively to Us Weekly. “And we said boy or girl she will be named that. And from the time she was six weeks in utero we called her by her name. I feel like names define people so much and that name clearly has a personality to it.”

He adds: “Her middle name is my grandmother’s name. My grandmother, she is someone that Keile and I just adore and she’s one of the first people that Kiele got to know in my family. My grandmother is head over heels in love with Kiele. So it just felt right.”

The Friday Night Lights alum, 36, and Sanchez, 40, welcomed their little girl via surrogate in November 2016, a year after Sanchez suffered a late-term miscarriage.

“My wife isn’t like anyone I’ve ever met in my life,” Gilford tells Us, adding that he can “tear up” just watching her now as a new mom. “I think when people meet her they just fall in love with her. I feel like she’s taught me how to love and you just see her looking at this baby and you just know she’s a mama lion and nothing will ever happen to this kid. It’s really incredible.”

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As for how he is as a dad? “I’m very hands-on and very present. I just want to get to know her and her to feel confident to be whoever she is and know that we are just going to support her and guide help to figure out how to be herself.”

Don’t expect Zeppelin to be wearing any FNL onesies, though. “It’s so funny, I didn’t even think of that,” he says. “She has a lot of Chicago sports stuff. I’m very proud of [the show] but I don’t even wear Friday Night Lights stuff. I think I have like one T-shirt to work out because I would be embarrassed to be on the street broadcasting like, ‘Hey, remember me? I’m that guy from that show.’”

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Gilford and Sanchez tied the knot in December 2012. His former costar and best friend Jesse Plemons, who is expecting his first child with fiancée Kirsten Dunst, performed at their ceremony.

“He and Kirsten have already been over. They travel so much. They’re funny. It’s fun to get to know her because I think I said, ‘You’re getting married? You’re having a baby? Who is this chick?’ But she’s really cool,” Gilford says of Zeppelin’s recent visitors. “It’s kind of nuts to think that our babies are going to be so close. I guess it’s just kind of the way when you’re around a certain age. It will be exciting.”

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