MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A fight in Mankato that lasted only a few seconds changed three young lives forever. One person is struggling to walk and talk because of his injuries. Two others face the possibility of prison.
One of them is former Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson. Eight months after he ended up in the back of a police car in Mankato, Nelson is speaking publicly for the first time.
In an exclusive interview with WCCO-TV’s Mike Max, Nelson talks about trying to move forward from his mistake.
Philip Nelson is training for what he hopes will be his next football opportunity. Waiting for colleges to call, looking for a quarterback with quite a football resume.
He’s just a few years removed from a stand-out high school career and winning Mr. Football while at Mankato West. He’s also just more than a year removed from a two-year stint as a starting quarterback for the Gophers.
He left the program after his sophomore season, transferring to Rutgers. Then his life changed forever.
The grainy video of the incident that left Isaac Kolstad in a life-threatening situation, Nelson allegedly kicking him in the head.
“I’m just confused as to why I’m the one getting arrested right now. I walked away,” Nelson said to police on dash cam video.
He was arrested, a towel over his head as he walked to a vehicle last spring symbolic of a life forever changed.
“You know it was a nightmare, an absolute nightmare. I didn’t understand how I could possibly end up there,” Nelson said.
For the first time since that fateful night, he talked about the past eight months.
“At the downs I was just lucky to have my family around me because there were days where I didn’t want to get out of bed,” Nelson said.
He cannot talk about the case, although he’s hopeful to be exonerated with attorneys presenting evidence that his alleged kick to Kolstad’s head did not cause brain damage. That’s a legal issue. He can talk about that night, and those few seconds.
“Not letting yourself get caught up in a bad situation. It’s anybody out there, a bad situation can happen at any time and it’s about staying out of those bad situations,” Nelson said.
Nelson grew up in Mankato and lives in Mankato and while the legal case has played out, he’s afraid to leave his home and enter the public spotlight.
“You’re obviously nervous to go out in social situations and things like that, but as time has grown on, I’ve owned up to everything that has happened,” Nelson said.
He has several colleges keeping tabs on him as he is eligible to play next fall. He is attractive to many schools and has worked out with a trainer to prepare for his next opportunity. But what he wants to be is more than a football player, he wants to share his story.
“This is a couple seconds of my life, it doesn’t define who I am. I just know that I’m 21 years old and I’ve got plenty of life to live,” Nelson said. “Any way I can share my experience and help other people learn from my mistake, that would be something that I would really look forward to doing. This is real life, this is way more important than any football game I’ve played in my life.”
This is not just about Nelson, of course, it’s about Isaac Kolstad and Trevor Shelley, and who did what to who. It’s something Nelson can’t discuss in specific terms, but can only say one thing.
“You just absolutely pray for the best for everybody involved. That’s truly my hope and my prayers,” Nelson said.
Trevor Shelley is also charged with a felony for the fight that hurt Kolstad. Last week, the medical examiner concluded that a punch Shelley is accused of throwing caused Kolstad’s worst injuries.