Last week was quite a roller-coaster ride for Kevin Nelms.
The Archbishop Ryan High School senior suffered heartbreak on the soccer field on Oct. 25 when his Raiders lost in the quarterfinals. The following morning, life got much better when he met one of his role models, Northeast native Chris Ferguson, a NASA shuttle astronaut who visited Ryan High School, his alma mater.
First, the bad news. The Raiders’ promising postseason run came to a halt on Oct. 25 when they lost to St. Joseph Prep in overtime, 3-2, during the Catholic League quarterfinals.
Matt Martinez and Ryan Stevens — All-Catholic players for Ryan — scored goals in the game.
Tom Cugliotta, Colin McGlynn and Matt Smith did the damage for St. Joseph. Smith’s goal came in the last two minutes of the first overtime, giving the Hawks the win.
“It was a tough loss at the end of the season,” said Nelms, a three-time, first-team All-Catholic player for the Raiders. “But I thought we had a productive season. We got better as the season went on. It was great having a team with such great camaraderie. It was frustrating when things didn’t go our way, but that happens with every team.”
With Nelms leading the way as team captain, the Raiders finished the season 13-4-1 overall. They recorded five shutouts and outscored opponents by more than 40 goals.
“He’s an All-Catholic player, one of our team captains,” said George Todt, who has guided the Ryan soccer program for 43 years. “His father played for me, his brothers. He’s in NHS (National Honor Society). He’s a superb student-athlete.”
Nelms has been part of Ryan’s soccer team for years, but his association started long before he attended the Academy Road high school.
He was on the sidelines as his older brothers competed while wearing Ryan’s red and black. He also heard stories of glory from his father’s playing days.
“I’m the last generation to play for Mr. Todt,” Nelms explained. “Most of my uncles and my two brothers played at Ryan, and my dad. I knew Mr. Todt long before I tried out for the team during freshman year.
“It made the transition to high school easier, but him knowing me was sometimes a bad thing, because he was yelling at me before I was even on the team,” Nelms added with a laugh. “Ryan soccer is a family thing. My aunts and uncles and grandparents love it. They never miss a game. I’m very happy to have such an amazing family. I had a choice of going to another school, but I didn’t want to break the tradition that my family has at Ryan.”
In the classroom, he’s a member of the National Honor Society and the Ryan student council. In fact, thanks to his academic success, Nelms was selected to meet Chris Ferguson during the NASA astronaut’s visit to Ryan last week.
“He’s like a role model for me,” said Nelms. “It was so interesting to hear him talk. He had a way about him. I can’t even explain it. I look up to him so much.”
Ferguson, a graduate of Archbishop Ryan and Drexel University, visited both schools to discuss his command of the Atlantis mission in July, the final flight of the shuttle program. After his presentation to Ryan’s student body during an auditorium assembly, 17 students — including Nelms — were selected to accompany him to Drexel University for a panel discussion of the shuttle flights.
Nelms also is involved in the Future Engineers Club at Archbishop Ryan. The extracurricular club offers the students insights to the profession.
ldquo;I always loved to build things. I had a creative way to do things, and I do well in math and science,” said Nelms, who has a 4.0 grade-point average. “I thought it would be a good profession.
“I’m working on applications for college now,” he added. “I’m not committed anywhere. I’m looking for a good engineering college. I want to play soccer, too, but my education is first.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org