“I’ve learned so much through football. How to overcome adversity, how to persevere, how to work hard and achieve something you’ve worked for. To me, it’s more than a game, and I want to be able to give that back to other kids,” says Nelson Ehirim.
Not only is Nelson on Baylor’s football team, but he is also a graduate student and veteran.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Midwestern State, Nelson earned a commission as an officer in the United States Army, where he served four years on active duty. Nelson currently serves in the Army Reserves while working on a master’s degree in sport pedagogy and playing football at Baylor University.
For many years, Nelson has dreamed of playing for Art Briles’ team, a dream that began in 2006 when Briles had recruited Nelson to play for the University of Houston. Then a senior in high school, Nelson was not able to attend due to an injury and would subsequently play at Midwestern State University. Now, eight years later, Nelson is finally able to fulfill his dream.
“My experience on the team so far has been great. A lot of the younger guys really look up to me and like listening to my boring military stories. The coaching staff has been very welcoming. Coach Kazadi (strength and conditioning) and Coach Briles along with my position coach have really helped me feel at home,” says Nelson.
Nelson’s humility and work-ethic are characteristic not only of his time practicing for the football team but also in his classes. Though he has worked hard to earn his place at Baylor, Nelson attributes much of his academic success to the help of the Veteran Educational and Transition Services (VETS) program, which provides student veterans with support and resources to help with the transition from military service to college.
Dr. Janet Bagby, coordinator of the VETS program, and LaNette Thompson, VETS transition coach, worked closely with Nelson to ensure his successful transition to graduate school at Baylor.
“Janet and LaNette went out and used the VETS funds and bought me all kinds of study materials. And because of that, I was successful with the GRE. That, and she [Dr. Bagby] actually went and talked to Dr. Kramer in the graduate office and vouched for me,” says Nelson.
Not only did the VETS program provide Nelson with the resources he needed to meet Baylor’s rigorous acceptance requirements, but Vets in Transition, the new student experience course for veterans, provided him with emotional support during his transition back to college.
”What that class provided me was a debriefing zone,” explains Nelson. He describes his relationship with his classmates as “a family, because at one point in time, you swore that you would die for each other.”
Though you may not see Nelson on the field just yet, keep an eye out for him cheering on his teammates from the sidelines and playing in the seasons to come.
If you’d like to learn more about the VETS program and the great things Baylor is doing for its student veterans, click here.