"Commitment to Cardinal": WR/DB Keanu Nelson

It took a big event to lift the Cardinal's spirits above the level they had reached after Saturday night's outstanding effort against the Sun Devils, but an exceptionally gifted young student-athlete from Arizona managed to kick things up yet another notch higher when he pulled the trigger and announced his intention to become part of Stanford's 2010 class. Read on for the latest on Keanu Nelson!

Commitment to Cardinal: WR/DB Keanu Nelson

As if the Stanford coaching staff wasn't happy enough following the Cardinal's 33-14 demolition of visiting Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday night, Sabino High School (Tucson, Ariz.) athlete Keanu Nelson gave them another reason to smile, just moments after the final whistle blew.


As the Stanford players and coaches made their way over to the student section to salute the crowd, Nelson pulled Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh aside and gave him a verbal commitment.


"I told Coach Harbaugh and he kind of picked me up and hoisted me up in the air in celebration [EUTM]," Nelson said.


Nelson picked the Cardinal over offers from Arizona, Washington, UCLA, and numerous other suitors.


"Stanford can compete at the Division-I level, in the Pac-10, at the highest level of competition for athletics and there's no compromise, there's no drop off in any of the academic subjects," Nelson said. "They're a private institution so funding is pretty good there, especially with their alumni and the weather is great. Really top-to-bottom Stanford is an elite institution. There's no drop off anywhere and there's no compromise."


Stanford's ability to convince Nelson to leave the state of Arizona and come to Palo Alto despite offers from most of the Pac-10 including Nelson's hometown school, the University of Arizona, is a testament to just how well his official visit went.


Heading into the trip Nelson says he viewed Stanford "on an even playing field" with Arizona, Washington, and UCLA. After a few days on The Farm, that all changed.


"You know, it is funny because I was looking for negative things and I really couldn't find any," Nelson said. "The visit in itself was just phenomenal."


On a scale of 1-10, the Nelson rated his time in Palo Alto an "11".


"I came in Thursday night," he said. "I got picked up at the airport by [recruiting coordinator and defensive tackles coach] Lance Anderson and we went to the hotel, the same hotel that the players stay at. In the morning we woke up and then I had two huge, busy days."


On Friday, Nelson got a chance to tour the campus, sit in on a few team meetings, as well as listen to a few highly regarded former professional athletes talk about the business side of sports.


"I actually sat in on a panel called "The Business of Sports" which included Steve Young and Bill Walton," Nelson said. "I also sat in on meetings with Coach Shaw [offensive coordinator and receivers coach David Shaw] and the offense. I went to practice then we ate at the hotel together. Then they watched a movie at the hotel so I watched some of that and then I went out with my host at night and saw the campus."


Nelson was hosted on the trip by freshman defensive back Terrence Brown and sophomore Michael Thomas. Over the course of the weekend, Nelson also became better acquainted with a number of Stanford players including quarterback Andrew Luck, Arizona-native and wide receiver Drew Terrell, and several members of the receiving corps.


"I though I connected with both Mike whose a defensive back and Terrence who is also a defensive back," Nelson said. "I thought I got to know them pretty well. Then I had dinner with the receivers and they were funny, stand-up guys. Also I had lunch with Andrew Luck and he's a really nice guy, great guy. He was one of the first to congratulate me after I committed. I think I formed some relationships in the time I was there. It was great."


On Saturday Nelson awoke bright and early to meet with more members of the Stanford coaching staff and to spend some time with a well-known Stanford professor and sports fan.


"The next morning I woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel and then met Coach Turley [strength coach Shannon Turley] and he was just kind of talking about the things he does for the program, strength and conditioning wise," Nelson said. "Then I actually met Condoleezza Rice. I was nearly star-struck. It was phenomenal."


It's not like Nelson just got to say hi to Rice in passing, either. The former secretary of state spent over half an hour with the three-star recruit and his family.


"It was a full blown 30- or 45-minute conversation," Nelson said. "It was just me, her, my family, and Mr. Eubanks. It was great. At times I kind of had to pinch myself, standing here in front of a former secretary of state. It was really amazing. She had a lot of good things to say. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but she seemed to be impressed by me, which was flattering. She's a very impressive woman, very articulate, obviously. We really got along. I loved every minute of it."


Later that day, Nelson was able to sit in on a panel of current Stanford student-athletes before heading down to Stanford stadium to watch Stanford's impressive victory.


Nelson has benefited from being coached by current Sabino High School assistant football coach and former Stanford standout Corey Hill (1994-97), who as it happens separately made the trip down to Palo Alto with his family for Homecoming and took in the win over ASU.


Hill has been a good sounding board for a young player faced with important decisions with regard to his football and academic future. It should not be surprising that while wanting the best for Nelson regardless of his ultimate decision, Hill had plenty of good things to say about his alma mater.

"Even the first time I met him, he (Hill) said he enjoyed the college experience and he still has close connections with his friends from Stanford ." Nelson said.


It might have come as a bit of a surprise when Hill found out Nelson made his decision on Saturday.


"I don't know if I caught him off guard by committing," Nelson said. "I felt too strongly about the place and I don't second-guess my decision at all. It was really good."

Not only was it "good", it sounds like it was "fun". Caught up in the aftermath of the victory, Nelson actually had the fortitude to get up in front of the energized Cardinal team in the post-game locker room to deliver the good news of his decision. Thundering roars of approval naturally followed!


Nelson said he is, "pretty solid" in his commitment to Stanford and is in the middle of completing his application.


"I started it," Nelson said. "I've done most of the personal stuff. I have one teacher evaluation that I already gave to Coach Anderson when I was there and one teacher should probably have it done by the time I go to school tomorrow. I   pretty much need to work just on the essays. They said to take your time on them because they play obviously such a big role in the application, so I'm really going to take my time on those and make sure I do a good job. So I'm pretty familiar with the application and I know that it is rigorous, but that's what makes Stanford 'Stanford'."


He said that he is being recruited by Stanford for the role of 'athlete', but admits to leaning towards the offensive side of the ball at this point.


"I really have started to lean towards the offensive side of the ball more and I hope I have some kind of impact there, but wherever they want me to play, I'll play," Nelson said. "Wherever they need help most, I'll do it."


Either way, Stanford is fortunate to receive the commitment of a multi-dimensional athlete that Scout.com rates as the fourth-best prospect in Arizona in the 2010 class. The desert-canvassing Cardinal also has a commitment from the third-best player in the state, safety Devon Carrington.


Nelson reports a three-part SAT score of 1550 that he plans to retake in December and a GPA of 3.62. He is enrolled in an AP Government and Honors English class, among others.

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