There are times when most of us feel like life is just one big routine. We go about the same things day after day, without thinking what it might be like for others. Then, there are times when we hear a story that causes us to realize that things aren’t so standard all the time. These same stories open our eyes to people who are making a difference to others, despite the hand they’ve been dealt, or the pass they’ve been thrown.
The story of Nick David is not simply of an athlete who attends school, does well on the field, and serves in his community. This is a story of coming from adversity to not only make it for oneself, but to then take the time to help others make it as well.
Many good football players come from David’s hometown of Waterville, Minnesota, but few come to Gustavus. And actually, David didn’t even plan on attending Gustavus. He was prepared to report to Winona State and play football there. It wasn’t until the coaches at Winona asked him to put on some more pounds and switch to the offensive line that David began to reconsider his decision to attend Winona State.
“Even after I had told coach Schoenenbeck that I was going to Winona he still called. Not necessarily to talk football, but just to see how school was, how things were going,” David said. “Coach told me to put in my application for school and for financial aid to see what I could get. And it turned out that it was about the same cost to attend here as it was to go to Winona.”
So, three days before Gustie training camp began, David decided to attend Gustavus and play football. The decision turned out to be a good one, and David stepped in as a first-year player and has continued to make significant contributions.
“I know I made the right decision in coming to school here,” David said.
“It was rough at first, I got a little beat up. But it got better as it went on,” David said of his first season as a Gustie. David has progressed as a player for the Gusties each year, and last season he was at his best recording 54 tackles in ten games played.
As impressive a player as David is, he enjoys leaving an impression on young kids more than on opposing ball carriers. Throughout his high school and college career David has spent time working with young kids. Be it at football camps, Saturday morning and Monday night football games for elementary kids, or the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP), David enjoys giving back to the kids of his community.
“Every kid deserves to have a good adult figure in their life,” David commented. “I enjoy giving kids a positive role model who don’t normally get to experience that. I also love seeing those kids improve, and watching them change is gratifying.”
The NYSP is a great commitment of David’s. All summer David was on campus working with the kids in the program. David served as a counselor for one of the groups of kids and is responsible for making sure the kids follow the program each day. At the NYSP kids are provided an opportunity to be active, consume a healthy diet, learn cooperation and follow the guidance of a positive role model.
This experience is unique to the kids as they do not have the opportunity to be surrounded by the same circumstances at home. The goal of the program is to expose the kids to a positive environment outside of their home to encourage them to pursue a full, healthy life. Also, an aim of the program is to make the college atmosphere familiar to them so they are encouraged to think about going to college upon graduation from high school.
Perhaps David can identify with the kids he helps each day somewhat more than most. The youngsters who attend NYSP are disadvantaged kids who don’t come from or enjoy the normal circumstances of an American child.
“Certainly my family life has been great,” David said. “We are a respectful family that loves each other, but we certainly weren’t rich growing up. So in that regard I can identify a little more with them.”
One would certainly not characterize David as coming from “ordinary circumstances.” As David was in the midst of his sophomore season at Waterville, his older brother, Mike, was shot and killed the weekend before MEA break while serving in the National Guard. David and his brother were very close, and even shared a room together at home.
“I didn’t miss one game or one practice because I knew that he wouldn’t have wanted me to. I just played through it,” David said.
As if that wasn’t enough, David and his family suffered another tragic loss when his mother, Jean, passed away in mid-January from complications during surgery. After dealing with the loss of her son, Jean was suffering pain from pinched nerves in her neck. While doctors were operating on her she suffered a series of strokes and passed away as a result.
Throughout that tragic year, David received tremendous support from his father Michael and four older sisters, Jessica, Jolene, Amanda and Mikenzi.
David needed something to serve as a sanctuary, a place where he could release his emotions; football was that place for him.
“Football provided a place for me to release my anger and stress,” David said. “I can remember lifting weights for five hours straight after my mother passed away. It was a place for me to go.”
Gustavus has become a perfect place for David to be. The football team and small campus atmosphere have been things that David has cherished throughout his time at school. “I like the small campus because you know people and people know you. The professors know your name. I love being here,” David said.
“School-wise it was tougher than I thought it would be,” David said. “But I’ve become a harder worker in the classroom because of it, so it’s helped me. A big help to me has been the football program and my teammates. I’ve developed relationships that mean a lot to me.”
As we all know, life can throw us curveballs, or shaky spirals in some instances. But how one handles those situations and what becomes of us as a result is the difference between being average and being outstanding. Gustavus prides itself on being a place of extraordinary people and Nick David is certainly no exception.