Even though Keith Nord eventually became a captain of the Minnesota Vikings pro football team and one of the state's best-known professional athletes in the early 1980s, he came out of Minnetonka as a rather under-sized player.
"I was about 5 foot 9 and 150 pounds when I graduated," recalls Nord, a 1975 graduate of MHS who was also a sprinter on the track team. "But my goal since I was 12 years old was to become a pro football player, so I did something toward that goal every day – be it lifting weights, running, throwing the football."
Even so, he adds, "Not many Division I college football teams are going to offer a 150-pound kid a scholarship."
While it sounds like a cliché, the fact is that what Nord lacked in size he made up for in determination and hard work.
After he played defensive back and running back earlier in his career at MHS, which did not have much success during his years on varsity, head coach George Soukup and assistant coach Joe Lane handed Nord the quarterbacking reins for his senior year.
"I always appreciated that, the confidence they showed in me," Nord says. "It was a good time in my life, playing for those guys and playing with my buddies at Minnetonka. Those coaches truly and honestly wanted to teach us as much about football as they did about life. And I've always said that that's what sports should be out – about the experience, about working hard with your teammates and about learning about yourself and life."
While Nord played well his senior year, the team finished with a disappointing 2-7 record. However, the Skippers lost three games in overtime and two others by less than seven points. "It really was close to being a very good season, and I took some pride in thinking that our team laid the groundwork for the coaches and the Minnetonka program to have a much better season the next year."
With no Division I offers coming his way, Nord headed to St. Cloud State to play football, arriving a full three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than when he left MHS. When a shoulder injury forced him to give up on playing quarterback, he became a defensive back and one of the best Division II players in the country.
As his college career was winding down, his dream of playing in the NFL remained real, as a couple of teams informed Nord of their plans to draft him. When that didn't happen, he received several tryout invitations; he opted for the Vikings in large part because the tryout was closest to home.
After impressing the coaches, Nord eventually worked his way into a starting role as a free safety, was named the special teams captain, and became, for the most part, a household name in Vikingland.
While still a pro football player, Nord accepted a number of offers to make appearances and give talks to various organizations and corporations. He was, unknowingly, embarking upon what would become his profession later in life. These days, he gives presentations and speaks to educational and corporate groups about leadership, personal development, hard work and how to be influential on the job as well as in real life.
"My business has really evolved over the years," says Nord, who turned down offers to become a coach after his playing days. "I couldn't be happier with how this has worked out, as this career has given me time to do the things I love, like hunting and fishing, and spending time with my family."
Nord has five children and still lives in the area.