Remembering Nebraska Swimmer Jon Nelson

by SwimSwam 1

August 30th, 2015 College, Lifestyle, National, News, Opinion

Contributor, Rick Paine, is an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection (ACC). ACC is a SwimSwam Partner. 

I just got back from a funeral of one of our Nebraska swimmers, Jon Nelson. He was 40 years old. I recruited Jon out of Storm Lake, Iowa, not exactly a hotbed of competitive swimming. Jon had a very limited background and was not exactly the next Michael Phelps. His times were not very fast, but after meeting him I realized that he had a lot more to offer than just times on a piece of paper. He came to Nebraska and never looked back.

In his freshman year we put him in the sprint group with numerous All Americans and Olympians and basically threw him to the sharks. (For you non swimmers, the is akin to taking a junior high football player and sticking him in the Broncos training camp). 99.9% of the swimmers in this situation would have been quickly eaten by the sharks, but not Jon Nelson.

By the end of the season Jon had become friends with all of the sharks and had earned their respect. In his senior year his teammates elected him team captain. All of these All Americans and Olympians had chosen him to be their team leader. He came from Storm Lake, Iowa as a :54 second hundred freestyler and ended his career as the team captain of one of the best men’s teams in the country.

As I try to understand the deep sadness that I feel I can only think that God is putting together a hell of a 400 freestyle relay in heaven and he need a great anchor leg. He got one in Jon Nelson.

I continue to work with young swimmers in the college recruiting process and I meet a lot of them who don’t believe they are good enough or have what it takes to swim in college. I simply tell them the Jon Nelson story. I am hoping that Jon’s spirit lives on and inspires young people to not be afraid to reach for their dreams.


Finding out if you have what it takes to compete in swimming at the college level is easy, and many swimmers do have the potential considering all of the options.  Go to www.ACCrecruits and submit a Free Profile.


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Alli Phelps

Hey, I was an old friend of Jons but don’t know his family well enough to ask them. Could you tell me what happened to him?