KINGMAN - In a coming of age move, Kingman High football coach Jamie Nelson has resigned the position after one season with the Bulldogs. The surprise announcement came as a result of Nelson's desire to be closer to his immediate family.
"As I get older I want to put my family ahead of my job," Nelson, 34, said.
"I'll be closer to my mother who has had two knee replacements and back surgery in the past year. I'll be a half day's drive away."
Nelson has accepted a position with the Dakota State Trojans in Madison S.D., an NAIA school that finished 3-7 last season.
"My friend in Payson got the head-coaching job there, and he offered me a job," Nelson said.
"I've been looking for a job back there for years now, and this just opened up a couple of weeks ago."
Nelson's resignation came as a disappointment to KHS athletic director Tim Casson, but not as a shock. The uncertainty of funding from the state for the district has many people looking around for jobs.
"I just feel he had so much to offer our kids and program," Casson said. "He'll be difficult to replace. He's very talented and has been offered jobs at a number of places."
Nelson will return to his roots, where he dreamed of being the next Tommy Kramer for the Minnesota Vikings.
When he departs Kingman at the end of the school year, Nelson feels he's put the Bulldogs on the right path, but he also acknowledged that there is unfinished business at KHS. "I feel bad for the kids. We have been making progress," Nelson said.
"The kids are working harder and more kids are showing up. The signs that make success indicative are there."
Casson agreed that Nelson was making progress with the program, and he hopes the forward movement can be used as a selling point to future applicants. "Hopefully, a new coach will see that and want to build on it," Casson said. "I hope it attracts them to the position."
Nelson has implemented flag football to help the players work on the speed of the game, upgraded the weight room and video equipment and will take a large group of players to an upcoming combine in Flagstaff.
"The combine is keeping our focus going," Nelson said. "It's a chance to see how others outside of Kingman are performing and what they're doing."
Nelson has been impressed this off-season with the enthusiasm and the number of players who have been participating. On a recent Saturday, 23 Bulldogs showed up to prepare for the combine, and 21 of them stayed after to play an hour of flag football.
"I've tried to create football to be around 12 months a year," Nelson said. "It's a lot of work, but I've also wanted to make sure they had fun doing it. My goal was to keep them involved so they don't have a reason to say they can't."
Casson agreed that Nelson was building excitement around KHS football, but there hasn't been enough time to complete the job. "He wasn't here to turn it around in a year, but in a few years ..." Casson said.