Former NFL player speaks to local students

Keith Nord’s life changed in college when he started writing down a list of goals, a list that eventually included taking his NFL-weary body and running 26 miles at the age of 49.

The former Minnesota Vikings defensive back was part of a leadership conference given at Monticello High School Feb. 25, and Nord shared things he has learned in a life that included a 7-year NFL career.

His major life changer occurred as a sophomore at St. Cloud State University, when his friend Bobby Moriguchi was killed by a drunk river. Nord decided to mimic his friend’s practice of writing down goals.

Nord’s list eventually grew to 49 – he has checked off 46.

Those accomplishments include his first of three marathon runs in 2006. Nord was thinking he would not make it, and was ready to give up around the 21-mile mark when his body that had undergone a myriad of surgeries started to scream at him.

An elderly man encouraged him over the last five miles, helping him across the finish line.

“I realized that, to achieve that goal, I needed some help,” Nord said to high schoolers at an assembly preceding the day-long leadership seminar.

Nord also spoke to students about getting through the struggles of high school life and academics, and encouraged every one of them to “find out how good you can be at something.”

He learned that lesson as a walk-on in the Vikings camp after not being drafted out of college in 1979. Not only did he make the team, he played in 76 games for the NFL squad, was one of its team captains in 1983 and was once a nominee for NFL Man of the Year. Nord’s other honors including being named March of Dimes Citizen Athlete of the Year, Muscular Dystrophy Citizen Athlete of the Year, and the 1985 Ed Block Memorial Courage Award winner.

Now 57, he looks back on an event years ago that also changed his perspective. At a Special Olympics gathering, one athlete finished a sprint in 10 seconds, but it took another several minutes due to his disabilities. But at the end, that athlete was just as proud of his accomplishment.

“That was when I realized the competition is not with each other. It’s with ourselves,” commented Nord.

The Minnesota native also talked about serious topics like sexual harassment and abuse. He had all MHS senior girls stand, and noted that research shows ¼ of all women in the United States endure some sort of sexual abuse by the time they finish college.

“One in four is the same as your entire senior class. That’s crazy,” he said.

At the same time, he took the males of the class to task, saying it is within their power to stop most sexual abuse and harassment around them.

Nord’s presentation and the leadership seminar was sponsored by the company Herff Jones. After the assembly, 185 students from several central Illinois high schools took part in the leadership seminar.

“I’d like to thank (Herff Jones Sales Representative) Jake Romano and Herff Jones for sponsoring this event, and enhancing opportunities for our students,” said Monticello High School Principal Tip Reedy.

Goals left to achieve
Nord’s remaining goals? The three that are left are learning Spanish, teaching pre-school and an undisclosed one he calls “extremely personal.”

Ones he has checked off the list include playing in the NFL, learning how to barefoot water ski, and getting involved with several groups including the March of Dimes, Big Brothers, and Special Olympics.

Nord was impressed with his visit to Monticello High School, especially by the encouragement for students to “make a choice to have a great day.”

“Many students today come out of environments where they feel they don’t have a choice. What a great message, to be told it is our choice about the type of day we have. Good stuff! And stuff you don’t hear about at most schools,” said Nord.


Categories (3):News, Education, People


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