BFS lost a dear friend on August 30 with the passing of John “Nellie” Nelson, a beloved assistant football coach for 20 years at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. On Sunday, September 6, over 1,500 people whose lives were touched by Nellie attended a service to honor him. For their opening game, the football team placed a silhouette of Nellie on their helmets with a sticker that stated some of Nellie’s last words: "I am not afraid."
Nellie was born with arthrogryposis, a disease that locked all his joints from the neck down, and doctors did not believe he would reach the age of 30 – but Nellie’s love of life enabled him to make it to 44. BFS Vice President John Rowbotham developed a close relationship with Nellie when Rowbotham played at PLU. Here are Rowbotham’s words from an earlier tribute to Nellie:
"The first time I heard Nellie tell about his life was after one of the games where he spoke to the football team. When I heard how tough his life had been and still is, I was just amazed at the man he has become. Nellie is a proud man, confident, hardworking and determined. I just couldn’t imagine going through the things he has and having the outlook on life that he has. At that point I really wanted to get to know him better and to draw on his strength. We developed a close friendship and a trusting relationship."
"Nellie helps people understand life. Too often, the things that should matter – taking care of others, integrity and love – get swept under the rug because we get involved in seemingly more important things such as money, winning and ever changing priorities. Nellie brings us down to the essentials: being humble, seeing the importance of the little things. I am a better person because of Nellie. I find myself in my daily life saying, "Hey, Nellie got through that! I can sure as heck get through whatever obstacle I’m going through."
"Nellie was the greatest of friends – and he will forever be remembered." Download the Full Article by John Rowbotham, originally published in the September/October 2004 Issue of the BFS Magazine.
Download Nellie's Documentary by BFS, originally published in the November/December 2004 Issue of the BFS Magazine from the BFS Archives.
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