"Well basically it's pretty black and white," Nelson said. "My scholarship wasn't renewed here at Stanford and that's fine. I know those things happen all the time and it's a business. There's no hard feelings and I understand."
It's not uncommon for college programs and coaching staffs to revamp their rosters in a way they feel best fits their program. Nelson will be leaving Stanford with a degree but feels there's more football left in his future. Fortunately for Nelson, BYU was willing to extend him a second chance.
"I kind of got in contact with Coach [Paul] Tidwell, who originally recruited me out of Arizona, through my high school coach, Coach Campos," said Nelson. "It just happened to work out in my favor and they ended up offering me a scholarship last week while I was on my official visit. I sat on it for a few days and then committed. It's just another opportunity to play in a little bit different system. It's also another opportunity for me to advance my education and use my time as a college football player because it is finite."
Sabino High School head coach Jay Campos reached out to Coach Tidwell who recruited Nelson during his prep years.
"My high school coach re-alerted me about BYU and that possibility," Nelson said. "I told him that my scholarship wasn't being renewed for me at Stanford, so he literally told me the next day that I should look into that situation. I remember being recruited by Coach Tidwell, so BYU was an option I was interested in looking into."
Paul Tidwell recruits the state of Arizona heavily and has had a lot of success there. He was instrumental in recruiting one of the top tight ends in the west in Matt Bushman for the 2014 recruiting class. Although it's been four years, Keanu Nelson still remembers what it was like being recruited by Coach Tidwell.
"Coach Tidwell is a great guy and I remember him really well. I remember his personality and he was pretty persistent and steadfast back in the days when it came to recruiting me. I liked how he conducted himself and more importantly how he spoke highly of me. That's what inspired me to try and reach out to him."
However, before Nelson could reach out and have conversations with other coaching staffs and universities he had to get a release from the Stanford compliance office. Once he was granted a release he was then able to reach out to Coach Tidwell and BYU.
"As far as I'm know I'm still on scholarship here at Stanford and it's good for four years," said Nelson. "All my tuition and books are being covered, so I'm on scholarship here until I graduate and that's a relief. When I found out that I wasn't going to be on scholarship I [asked for a] a release from Coach [David] Shaw and he gave that to me. That allowed me to go through the process and it was fairly easy and the compliance office does a good job and were cooperative. They just went ahead and forward everything to BYU's compliance office, so I got permission to get in contact with them and other schools. That's how that all worked out so there was no compliance issues because everything was taken care beforehand."
It wasn't long until BYU's Director of Player Personnel Geoff Martzen reached out to Nelson inviting him to take an official visit to BYU.
"One day I was actually sitting in product design class, because I'm a mechanical engineering major, and I get a friend request from BYU," Nelson said with a chuckle. "I accepted it and almost immediately after I accepted it I got a message from Geoff Martzen saying, ‘We would like to set up an official visit with you.' [They] set it up for the first week of April and I went out there last week. I was around the coaching staff, the environment, a great program, and great people. I ended up having a conversation with Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall where he extended me the offer."
Nelson had only taken one official visit out of high school and that was to Stanford. His second official visit, being a 22-year old division one player on the verge of graduating from Stanford, was a little strange.
"In terms of the uniqueness of BYU, it's right up my alley," Nelson said. "Stanford is unique in of its own right in terms of the culture, demands, and prestige. What I like about BYU is the culture there was really a pleasant surprise to me. I didn't really know what to expect and went there with no preconceived notions. It was a pleasant surprise and the campus was beautiful and the people there were so nice and respectful.
"When I was there watching practice it was great, and I was getting excited and could see myself in the offense. It was kind of a bit weird in retrospect I suppose. I'm a 22-year old recruit I guess. It's kind of funny."
Nelson began to laugh at the thought and relayed a funny incident about how his trip to BYU reminded him that he really was an older recruit.
"Yeah, I only took one official visit and that was to Stanford [in high school]. It's funny because when I was on my visit to BYU, one of the players and I was messing around," Nelson recalled. "One of the players when he met me knew my name before I even met him and called me a recruit. I was thinking, ‘Well, I'm not a recruit' then I started thinking about it. I was like, ‘Well, I guess technically I am a recruit.' That was a little bit strange but it was funny."
Nelson said BYU as a team is looking good based on his observations from practice.
"Yeah, they looked really good and practice really hard out there," he said. "They practice a little different than we do out here at Stanford, but they looked good from what I saw. I hadn't seen a lot of their spring camp but it was good from what I saw."
When the time came time to visit with Bronco Mendenhall, Nelson found himself in an interesting emotional position. Now that he was older, having been through the recruiting process, and having played football at the FBS level, being nervous about meeting Coach Mendenhall was something he didn't expect to happen. However, when the time came to talk to Coach Mendenhall he was, but those nerves settled once he saw into the soul of a man who would give him a second chance at playing football.
"It's kind of funny and I didn't think it I would be kind of nervous being an older player and a man," Nelson said with a chuckle. "I didn't think I would be anxious or nervous talking with him, but there is something about Coach Mendenhall that demands your attention. I don't know and I can't really explain it but he kind of demands your attention. He's a very intelligent man and he knows what he wants. He was very explicit to me in what he wants and expects and what he expects out of his team and me.
"When I was sitting in his office he presented me a paper to me and had me read a little bit about it. Everything was there in black and white and I appreciated that. It was a really productive conversation and I got to know a lot about him and like him. He is very intelligent and, like I said, a unique coach."
According to Nelson, the scholarship he received from Coach Mendenhall will be a football scholarship to play football at BYU during the 2014 football season.
"If I remember it was a full ride football scholarship for a full semester at BYU," Nelson said. "I would need to get all the details from Coach Mendenhall, but I've agreed to take a full ride athletic scholarship from BYU to play football for a semester."
When Nelson joins BYU's program he hopes to contribute in any way the coaches see fit. He will be joining the program as a wide receiver but can also contribute as a punt and kick returner, having played both positions at Stanford previously.
"I hope to contribute in any way I can to the team and to the program," said Nelson. "When I start being around those guys, and become embedded in the program, I want to be a competitor. I've played receiver and have done some kick return here at Stanford, so whatever is needed I hope to help contribute. At the very least I'll bring competition in the wide receiver room and on the practice field. Whether that's on the inside or outside [receiver] that remains to be seen, but I've always prided myself on hard work and competition. I think I'll bring competition and hard work and coaches like that at the end of the day."
Nelson is extremely grateful for the help of his former head coach Jay Campos and Paul Tidwell for getting the ball rolling with his second opportunity. He's also grateful to Bronco Mendenhall for extend him a BYU scholarship, knowing fully well he is taking a chance on him for a year, rather than use that scholarship to lock down a new high school player for four to five. Nelson had difficulty expressing in words how grateful he truly is.
"I can't even express how grateful I am for someone like Coach Mendenhall to take a chance a young man where so many questions could circle around a guy like me," Nelson said. "So many cons could easily outweigh the reasons on taking a chance on someone like me. I can't really put it in words how grateful I am for Coach Campos, Coach Tidwell, and Coach Mendenhall for giving me this opportunity, which is an answer to a prayer revolving around my strange situation. I'm very grateful for Coach Mendenhall for giving me a chance to do what I love and am passionate about. I can't really express it in words."
In the meantime Nelson will finish out the semester at Stanford where he will graduate on June 15th. He was, however, willing to forgo his graduation ceremony at Stanford if he was needed sooner at BYU. However, Coach Tidwell told him specifically to stay and experience the well-deserved award of walking with his class as a graduate of Stanford University.
"I kind of had an explicit conversation with Coach Tidwell while he was golfing about that," Nelson said with a chuckle. "I told him that I had no problem with being out there at BYU sooner, and he told me to stay out there and walk with my class at graduation. He said, ‘No, no stay out there and walk at your graduation' so I'll walk with my class on June 15th. I'm going to walk out here and then within a matter of days I'll head out to Provo and be with the team to be ready to go."
Grateful and excited about the future that lies ahead at BYU, Nelson knows he has one year to get it right. He already has it in mind that he's going to work hard and prove to the staff and the fan base that the rare opportunity he's been given will be worth the risk they've taken. His gratitude for the opportunity to play at BYU is evident.
"Man, I just want to say to all the BYU fans that I'm going to do my best to make you proud," said a humble Keanu Nelson. "I'm going to do everything that I can to contribute to the success of the team. I try to pride myself on being hardworking so at the least you'll get my best effort to do all that I can for this program. It's been an honor to receive a scholarship from BYU and be a part of this team. I can't express enough gratitude to Coach Mendenhall, Coach Tidwell, and Coach [Guy] Holliday for this opportunity. I want to thank the coaches and the fans for the support and I'll do the best I can. I have one year to try and prove myself and I'm going to give everything I have for you. That's all I can really do."