BROOKINGS -- With 3 minutes, 56 seconds left on the clock in the first quarter, Kanin Nelson trotted in for his first collegiate rushing touchdown.
As he returned to the South Dakota State University sideline, Nelson pointed to his parents -- Paul and Katie -- in the bleachers at Dykhouse Stadium. It was something the Mitchell native had in mind prior to crossing the plane.
The redshirt junior quarterback was in the midst of his first college start, but as he guided the Jackrabbits to a 38-3 romp of Long Island University, Nelson kept his parents in mind and they were the first visitors he wanted to see afterward.
“I wanted to point to my mom and dad to make sure they knew I was thinking of them,” Nelson said. “Because they made this opportunity possible for me.”
The touchdown came on a read-option play, in which the quarterback was supposed to survey the backside defensive end before deciding to keep the ball or hand it to a running back. Nelson made his read like a veteran and scored on a two-yard scamper.
Nelson is a veteran in terms of age, having been part of the SDSU program since January 2016, but he spent his first three years sitting behind record-setting quarterback Taryn Christion. He was then part of quarterback battle that waged from spring practice to fall camp this season, which was won by J’Bore Gibbs.
Gibbs had a stellar outing in a 28-21 loss to the University of Minnesota to open the season, but suffered an injury to his throwing hand in the process, opening the door for Nelson.
In eight games of mop-up duty last season, Nelson went 6 of 8, passing for 145 yards and two touchdowns. But on Saturday, he went 6 of 8 for 108 yards, with touchdowns through the air and on the ground.
“It was a great opportunity,” Nelson said. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. That’s part of life, that’s part of a football game. To have the coaches and my teammates trust me, that was a remarkable experience.”
Nelson was able to share that experience with family in New Orleans, who watched the game online, while his coach at Mitchell High School, Kent VanOverschelde, also took in the game from the stands.
His parents were most important, though, and it came at the perfect time. Paul and Katie arrived in Brookings just in time, having left Mitchell after their other son, Kiel, recorded his first college win at Dakota Wesleyan University in a 44-0 rout of Presentation College.
“We were sitting in the stands at the SDSU game and we were wondering how many parents in this country have two boys starting at quarterback for college football teams,” Paul Nelson said. “It kind of struck a chord at how special, how unique and how limited that was. I made it a point to not get too high or too low.
“If things went wrong, I could stay positive,” Paul continued. “It just so happens they played as should have and the teams played well. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better.”
Adding to the special moment was that times and locations don’t align with the SDSU and DWU schedules, so it was the first and only time this season that both parents will be in attendance at the same game.
Instead, they will split up, with one going to watch Kanin and the other to watch Kiel, like the day when SDSU opened at Minnesota and DWU at Dakota State on the same night.
Paul and Katie will sit down to see which site fits best in their schedules each week, but regardless, both brothers are understanding of the predicament.
“I owe them everything,” Kanin Nelson said. “... We have a really close family and that’s the most important thing to us. I know my parents are really proud and I’m proud of my brother.”
A timetable has yet to be given on Gibbs’ return and Nelson is not yet aware of his status as the starter against Drake on Saturday, but he does know that Paul will be in Brookings, while Katie is in Sioux City, Iowa, to watch Kiel play Briar Cliff.