Minnetonka High School Head Coach Dave Nelson has been named the recipient of the 2019 AFCA®/AFCF® Power of Influence Award. Nelson was nominated by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association. He received the award, given by the American Football Coaches Association® and the American Football Coaches Foundation®, at the 2020 AFCA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Power of Influence award was created as a way for the AFCA® and AFCF® to honor a deserving high school football coach. Coaches who receive this award are recognized for their impact on their team, as well as the legacy they leave with the school and surrounding community. This award is not based on wins and losses; however, it should be noted that coaches of powerful influence have longevity and success. This is the first AFCA award specifically designed to honor a high school coach.
Nelson graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he captained the Bulldog football and baseball teams. With influence from his Hall of Fame father, Stan, Nelson became a football coach. He began his coaching career in 1978 at Blaine High School in Blaine, Minnesota. Nelson was an assistant football and baseball coach for seven years before being named head football coach in 1984. In his 18 years as head coach, Nelson led Blaine to 11 conference championships, eight section championships and one state title in 1988. After a fourth state title game appearance in 2001, Nelson took the head coaching job at Minnetonka High School in 2002 and would stay until his retirement after the 2019 season.
In his 18 seasons at Minnetonka, Nelson would guide the Skippers to the program's first state championship in 2004. He also added another state title game appearance in 2017, four section championships and two conference titles. When you include his 18 seasons at Blaine, Nelson's overall record stands at 267-124, making him one of the winningest coaches in Minnesota High School history.
Nelson has been very active off the football field as well. He has served as president of the Minnesota High School Football Coaches Association, been on the selection committee for the Minnesota All-Star Football game since 1987 and served as chairman of the Minnesota Hall of Fame Banquet since 1989.
Nelson started the "Men of Character" program at Minnetonka High School several years ago, and it continues today. He was also a leader for students who participated in the Tonka Leadership Challenge, a program he ran for five years, in which he provided guidance to live life with care, respect and commitment toward others. Nelson also worked with Student Support Services to organize the annual "We Are One" football camp that matches children with special needs with Minnetonka football players for a fun, inclusive event, focused on community.
Nelson is the founder and chairman of Tackle Cancer, which has raised over $2 million since its start in 2012. Tackle Cancer would allow football teams of all levels in the state of Minnesota to set aside one game each fall to raise awareness and money to fund cancer research.
Nelson has been honored as Minnesota State Coach of the Year in 2004, KARE 11 Metro Coach of the Year two times and won nine conference coach of the year awards. He was inducted into the University of Minnesota-Duluth Hall of Fame in 2001, the Anoka High School Hall of Fame in 2016 and joined his father in the Minnesota Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2014.