MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Shakeel Nelson is a spring football coach for a team of kids 12 and under from north Minneapolis. That’s just part of the story.

“He just has a love for his family, a love for sports,” Don McPherson said.

McPherson did not know Nelson until 16 years ago.

“Well, we got matched in the Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2003, so it has been 16 years. He took me to the playground that first day, put me on a tire swing and almost got me sick,” McPherson said.

They bonded through the Big Brothers program – an inner-city kid looking for guidance.

“He taught me little things like please and thank you, taught me little things like how to talk to people, how to approach people,” Nelson said. “Just all about being a man because me not having a father growing up.”

Nelson grew into a leader of his own, and he knew the city does not offer much for junior high football. They needed help to be able to compete later in life. The goal is to send them on to a shot at playing in the city high school conference. For some, it’s more than that.

Mac Stingley, 12, says he wants to make it to the NFL.

They are on track. Last week they got the rare opportunity to travel to Chicago and play. They did and they won.

Which brings us back to Nelson’s Big Brother because it costs money to travel and have a team, and McPherson was there again – this time as the team’s sponsor.

“Well, I sold the business a few years ago and that’s put me in a position where I can sponsor a team like this and it means – I know that this will give these kids opportunities to see things, do things that they would never have been able to do,” McPherson said.

So they are getting what is common for many more in more affluent areas because of Nelson and McPherson.

“Me and him got together, we figure we put our dreams together – you see we got 12 Geniuses on the back of the jerseys, that’s my Big Brother’s company, and I love football so we put two and two together,” Nelson said.

The kids have a chance to dream about a sport that requires leaders to step up like Nelson and McPherson.

Mike Max

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