One of those schools that chose not to offer Nelson a scholarship was BYU, as the Cougars signed fellow prep phenom James Lark the same year. That's not to say BYU's interest in Nelson wasn't high or that it didn't pursue him out of high school.
"We had a lot of conversations with BYU back then during his senior year," recalled Keith. "We talked mostly with Coach Higgins - who was the recruiting coordinator - and other coaches. We liked BYU and we liked that they were interested in him as a quarterback. They obviously kept their interest and now they have a spot and decided that they wanted Riley to fill that spot, so we're grateful for that."
Due to Riley currently being away as he serves a mission in Barcelona, his family's contact with him is limited. Through emails, letters and a few rare phone conversations, the Nelsons are able to keep in touch, but not as much as would be ideal when facing a decision as big as choosing where Riley will play football and attend school following his mission.
"Riley is very much intent on serving his mission right now and in keeping the mission rules, so no, we didn't have any contact - other than the normal contact all missionaries have with their parents - since he received his offer from BYU," explained Keith. "The decision was almost entirely up to and made by him, which it should be. We know he's happy and comfortable with the decision, and that's enough for me as a father."
The Nelson family came to know indirectly that BYU still held interest for their son and might have room to offer him a scholarship upon his return. The interest culminated in a direct conversation between Keith and Coach Higgins.
"It was sort of like just a continuation of the recruiting process," said Keith. "I came to know Coach Higgins well during the process, so it wasn't that unusual for me to talk to him again."
The news was then relayed to Riley in Barcelona that he now had a scholarship offer from BYU. Riley's family knew that he'd carefully consider the offer, yet also remain focused on his mission.
"I know that Riley went through a lot of prayer and made his decision considering all factors very carefully," said Keith. "I think he decided about two weeks ago, but made the final decision today. I know it wasn't an easy decision for him, but he wanted to get it done with so he could fully concentrate on his mission service."
Nelson will return from his mission in March of 2009, and will be greeted immediately by spring practices where he'll compete for a spot at the quarterback position at BYU.
"He'll be ready," assured Keith. "Riley is a very focused kid who will work as hard as anyone to get back to form and compete. It won't be easy for him, but he'll do his best, I know that."
In the meantime, Keith and his family are grateful that Riley will have the opportunity to play for BYU.
"We know a lot about BYU and we're thankful that Riley will have the opportunity to play there," said Keith. "BYU is an up-and-coming program that has a great tradition of developing great quarterbacks. Like I said, there are some mixed emotions and I don't know right now exactly just how Riley feels, but I do know that he made the decision that he felt was right for him and I know he didn't come to that decision lightly. So for that reason, we're very excited to have him commit to BYU."