Ed. Note: When we first met Keith, he was a JV Basketball player who was kind to be receptive to our efforts to minister at Cuyahoga Falls HS. Since he was a fine basketball player playing for a storied program, we just assumed that Keith would be a top player in the Akron area by graduation. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to see him rise to be an accomplished track athlete and even greater college performer at Malone U. However, the greatest reward was to see him comprehend the value in surrendering to Christ and passionately pursuing Him - while still in college! Upon graduation, he became a school teacher and coach at his alma mater, investing in numerous lives and helping his students and athletes maximize their ability and find direction for their lives. He is truly a "Team Jam Hero". Our desire for anyone that we have helped is to see them pay it forward to the next generation. That's what Mr. Nelman is doing!
3x NAIA All-American in Track (Hurdles)
Husband to Tina
Father to Colt and Raegan
Cuyahoga Falls Teacher and Coach
I consider myself very lucky to grow up in the home that I did. My parents taught my brother and I good Christian values, how to love, be respectful, and stressed the importance of going to church. I guess it is safe to say that I always believed in Jesus Christ as my Savior. It was not until my late teens that I realized that Jesus was more than someone that I went to if I had a problem or someone that made sure that I was following the rules of the Bible. When I said my prayers at night I was usually asking God for something.
God started knocking at my door when I started High School. Looking back on my life it was men like John Saucier, Rev. Bryan George and a close friend of mine that challenged my faith. They would all ask me if I was going to Heaven and I would respond by saying "I hope so." I obvious did not get it. Jesus died for me on the cross and paid for all of my sins and because I believe in Him and what He did and let Him take control of my life...I am going to Heaven.
In high school I did not understand what it meant to let Jesus take control of my life. I did not understand what it meant to have a personal relationship Him. I ended up going to Malone College a Christian school in Canton because it felt like my Church youth group. I had a hard time fitting in during High School because I did not drink or party and Malone had the perfect atmosphere for me. It gave me a place where I could be comfortable being myself and surrounded me with Christians that I could learn from.
I had the privilege of competing on the Track and Field team at Malone. it would be nice to say that everything came into place my first year or so there but it did not. I struggled not knowing what I wanted to major in and what my purpose was. On the track I struggled at the 42'' height of the hurdles and ran times that I was ashamed of and even tore a hamstring, forcing me to redshirt a year, and it never seemed to get better. Feeling sorry for myself, I questioned my faith a lot and asked the question "why me God" a lot. I even thought about quitting the sport that I loved and started drifting away from God.
Then one of the coaches at Malone gave me a book about Dave Johnson (Olympic Decathlete) called "Aim High." It is a personal story about Dave Johnson, his struggles in life and how Jesus helped him to get focus and take control of his life. Dave had a lot of "hurdles" that he had to overcome in his life. Even in his failures Dave Johnson was not defeated because he had a relationship with Jesus. He had is life in perspective and I wanted that so bad. I was tired of feeling sorry for myself and wanted direction in my life.
After reading one of the chapters from his book I picked up the Bible and came across Matthew 25:14-30. It is the Parable of the Talents. I realized that God blessed me with talents and I was wasting them. Instead of using them for Him, they were being used for myself. I wanted to use the talents He gave me as a platform to tell others about Jesus. That night I took a walk around the Track and asked Jesus to take control of my life and use my talents for Him. I finally had a purpose in my life! I now knew what I wanted to major in and knew who to focus on running for.
Track athletes that were good received a lot of attention, so that now became my goal, only now when people noticed, hopefully they would see God through me. That was my new goal. I trained harder than ever in the weight room and on the track to earn that platform. Fortunately, I was very blessed with success while at Malone and it gave me an opportunity to talk about my faith with other athletes - an opportunity that I took advantage of.
When it was time to hang up the spikes I struggled once again with a purpose and direction on how to share my faith. It was easy when I was competing because people knew me and Track was my platform. God has recently taught me that it doesn't matter if you are blessed to share your testimony to hundreds at a track meet every week or to one person every two week - just be faithful. Even though I am not competing anymore my purpose is to be an example for my wife, children, and the students that I teach. I look forward to the next chapter that Jesus leads me to.
Jesus died for me, paid for all my sin, rose from the dead, I believe in Him and He controls my life. So now if I'm asked the question "Are you going to Heaven?"... the answer is proudly yes!
Keith Nelman currently lives in Peninsula, Ohio with his wife Tina and two children Colt and Raegan. He teaches 4th and 5th grade at Preston Elementary in the Cuyahoga Falls School District.
THE NELMAN FILE
Feature Story - Beacon Journal
Cuyahoga Falls HS 99'-14'
Sprints and Hurdles
Head Coach 2012-2014
- 5 sprinters to the State meet
- 2 earned All-State in their events.
- Joe Taylor- 200 meters - 6th (2002)
- Rob Jones- 110 Hurdles -3rd (2007)
- 12 sprinters to Indoor State meet
- 1 earned All-State
- 6 of 8 sprint/hurdle records broken
College- Malone U. (1994-99)
3x NAIA All-American - High Hurdles
4x NAIA Finalist - High Hurdles
6x NAIA Nat'l Qualifier - High Hurdles
School Record - 55m High Hurdles - 7.48
School Record - 110 Hurdles -14.32
H.S.- Cuyahoga Falls class of 94'
3 year letterman in Basketball
4 year letterman in Track and Field
1 year letterman in Cross-Country
League Champ - 110 High Hurdles 94'
Regional Finalist - 110 High Hurdles 94'