By Alex Miller
UNI Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Rick Nelson is no stranger to success. Scratch that. Rick Nelson is no stranger to pride.
In fact, in Nelson's 24 years as an offensive line coach in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, his favorite part is just coaching the kids and when they, "take pride in themselves and are held accountable."
The Panthers currently boast of three active offensive lineman in the NFL - Chad Rinehart (Buffalo Bills), Austin Howard (New York Jets) and Brad Meester (Jacksonville Jaguars).
When asked about the feeling he gets when he sees that someone he coached made it to the next level, Nelson shrugged his shoulders and said, "you know, I always tell the kids that there's only 210 lineman that dress on Sundays. It's pretty elite."
Referencing that these kids just need a great attitude and work ethic and they could end up like Rinehart, Howard or Meester.
"I just tell the kids that you're only guaranteed eleven games," Nelson said. "This is one of them, so as a senior this is your last eleven times that you're guaranteed to put that uniform on."
It's moments like this that help Nelson push every lineman on the roster to better themselves as an athlete, to give them that chance to play on Sundays.
"I don't care who we play, I just care how you play," exclaimed Nelson.
"Coach Nelson has helped me develop the skills and techniques that are necessary to reach my potential as a NFL lineman," Rinehart said. "More importantly though, I have realized those skills will also transfer to the challenges I face outside of football. Thanks to the education I received from UNI and from coach Nelson I feel that I can be successful regardless of the situation."
In regard to Rinehart, coach Nelson claimed, "we've had some really good kids. We've had some kids make it; we've had some kids that we thought would make it that didn't. I guess the biggest thing is just a lot of pride."
There's that word again, pride. The five letter word that Panther fans alike bleed at every football game while supporting their beloved team; the one word that Rick Nelson has instilled in the minds of all the kids he's coached throughout the years.
With pride comes attitude and although every kid wants to play on Sundays, attitude on and off the field is something Nelson pushes these kids to have.
"You know, attitude about anything, attitude about classes, attitude about getting up early and doing early morning workouts," Nelson said. "Football is a team sport and I think accountability is the biggest thing because no matter what you're gonna do...you have accountability."
When asked what his favorite part about coaching was, as mentioned earlier, Nelson didn't even hesitate.
"Being around the players, no question," Nelson said. "Just being with them, meetings, practice. They keep me feeling young."
Despite coaching for 24 years in the MVFC, Nelson acts just like he did day one as Panther as he continues to revitalize the team every year as they push to be the best FCS team in the nation.
"I love football, but I love the kids. I love the kids more."