Father, son football coaching legends tackle cancer

Father, son football coaching legends tackle cancer

Editor's Note: Watch Randy Shaver's interview with Stan and Dave Nelson on KARE 11 tonight at 10 p.m.

ANOKA, Minn. - It's Friday night, game night, at one of Minnesota's legendary fields just a short walk from downtown Anoka. Goodrich Field has been the home of the Anoka Tornadoes since the 1930s.

The field has seen its share of wins and losses and to fresh eyes, this old stadium may look it's age.

But when 97-year-old former Anoka coach Stan Nelson stops by on a quiet summer morning, it's like visiting an old friend. Nelson said, "They call this Goodrich field but to our players it was the pit."

Both Stan and his son Dave who played for his dad at Anoka remember it well. It was a place where Stan Nelson teams dominated through the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In fact Anoka won 33 consecutive games in the early 60s.

And Stan took home a championship or two along the way.  And he remembers it all.

Dave said, "I would say he was tough, a disciplinarian, you knew where the line was but also made it really fun." He added, "We knew he was a legend when we played for him, it was an honor to play for him."

Dave has followed in his dad's footsteps, coaching football for Blaine and now Minnetonka. And Stan doesn't miss a game. Football is their bond. And so is cancer.

Dave said, "He gave me some good genetics but that's one thing that wasn't so hot –I think there's a little bond there since we've both been through it."

Both Dave and Stan are prostate cancer survivors. Stan diagnosed in 1982, Dave about seven years ago. Both are now on the other side, and grateful. 

But Stan is grateful for a lot in his life. He served his country in World War II. He was there for the invasion of Normandy, and spent time fighting in the Pacific Theater. One of many brave men who are deservedly known as America's 'Greatest Generation'.  He says he was honored to serve. 

And when he came home, he continued to do just that to thousands of young men on the football field. Dave said, "My dad's so humble, he has no clue how many people he's touched in this community over the years."

But he's about to find out. Anoka is saying thank you to Stan on Friday night September 29.

In his humble way Stan said, "It's not fair, the players did all the work and I just watched them do the job, and I'm getting the honor, and to me it's not fair. That plaque is for every player that I ever coached that's the way I feel about it."

Watch Randy Shaver's other Tackle Cancer stories here:

Augsburg football players fight with cancer

Tackle Cancer research making a big difference

Minnesota football players journey of living with brain tumor

© 2017 KARE-TV


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