Fighting For A Cause

Oct. 6, 2006

By Ivan Santana, UCLA Sports Information Student Assistant

Danny Nelson has logged more miles than your typical student-athlete -- literally. Before reporting to football camp this summer, Nelson trained for and completed an ultra marathon, running roughly 32 miles. The ultra marathon was the latest in a myriad of marathons and triathlons the senior fullback and kick-return team specialist has completed.

Nelson took an interest in running as a way to rehabilitate from a shattered collarbone in the fall of 2004, but he began running marathons as a way to raise money to help families affected by war. A former U.S. Marine and a friend to many active servicemen, Nelson knew the struggles of a fallen soldier's family all too well. So he raised funds from family and friends based on his performances in marathons and triathlons.

Nelson attributes his avid involvement to the relationships he has built with soldiers, veterans and their families through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Pat Tillman Foundation.

'I hear all of the different stories from these people and theirfamilies that really make it personal; it becomes something Idon't ever want to stop doing,' he said.

Danny's exhilarating attitude extends to the football field.The three-year letterman, a transfer from Arizona WesternCollege, not only plays as a back-up fullback, but also anchorsa special teams unit, a responsibility that is not lost on him.

'I think kick-off duty is the most terrifying and mostexhilarating thing you can do in football. Even as a kid, I'vealways watched guys like Pat Tillman, special teams madman,flying over the wedges,' said Nelson. 'To me, they just seemedlike guys who played reckless, like nothing mattered to them. Ijust love the opportunity to play and do the little things thatsome guys may take for granted on other teams. Those playsmean everything to me.'

Nelson hopes to provide enough energy for another successful season, where, coming off last year's 10-2 record, the Bruins' aim is clear.

'Our team goal has always been to win the Pac-10. If youwin the Pac-10, you will be a national contender. That beingsaid, there is one team I want to beat more than any other inthe world and it's SC.We can only focus on one game at a timeright now. But there's no secret amongst anyone around me ormy family or anyone on the team that when the time comes,everyone will be more than focused on that game.'

In what may be his last year of organized football, Nelsonwants to be sure that, like in years past, his effort isaccompanied by undeniable leadership.

'To all the people around me, I want them to get the feelingthat I genuinely care about them as a teammate, I want to helpthem learn, and I'd do absolutely anything for them, on or offthe field. I think that's what a real leader is,' he said. 'On thefield, I try to prove to them every single play that I am not afraidto sell my body for them, for the cause, for the team. That to meis the type of leader I'd want to be.'

While the coaching staff will be sad to lose his experienceafter this season, Nelson will go on to serve his country as aSecond Lieutenant of the U.S. Army once he receives hiscommission in June 2007.

'I love football and I am savoring every moment of it here,but I feel that there is something else out there calling my name.That's why I chose to go back into the army,' said Nelson.

Nelson added, 'I'm still thankful for the UCLA footballexperience and everything that has come with it, but I thinknow I need to give something back. All this was given to me butit's now time to go do something that I need to do instead ofsomething that's fun to do.'

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