St. Norbert College senior Nick Keller has some eventful days. For example, on a given Thursday, he might spend his evenings shedding offensive linemen for tackles after using his afternoon hours teaching people the finer points of hand grenade throwing.
"I just kind of embrace the chaos of doing too much," said Keller.
Keller is a rarity at St. Norbert: a four-year member of the school's football team and ROTC program, where he is training for a career as an Army officer. A Green Knights athletics spokesman said it's believed Keller, who has 19 tackles and .5 sacks so far this year as a linebacker, is the first four-year member of both groups since 2004.
Both programs require double-digit hours per week, at the minimum, of their participants; this in addition to schoolwork. Keller is not one to do just the minimum.
"I'm very impressed with what he does," said Captain Amie Pflaum, an assistant professor of military science at St. Norbert. She works directly with Keller in all ROTC functions, which include early morning workouts, extra classes, weekend excursions and field work. "I would say he has the most demanding schedule out of any cadet in our program. I'm impressed every day he comes to training with a smile on his face."
Keller has spent his summers training recruits in Malawi, shadowing an Army officer in South Korea and taking part in a national ROTC event in Washington, D.C. He did, however, consider quitting football at one point, as both groups demanded more and more of his mind and body. He says he lost weight throughout his junior season, and at times was only getting 20 hours of sleep per week.
"I've had no one to do it with," said Keller. "Being by myself. People in ROTC know what that's like, everyone knows what the academics are like here. Only my teammates know what football is like here. Jumping around from both worlds, not really having someone there if you're having a down day or something. You just have to be on your game 100% of the time."
Keller says he adopted football's omnipresent 'one game at a time' mentality for his life, and is glad he stuck with the sport, where he is now a senior leader on the Green Knights defense.
"He's a kid that wants to do very well with football, with academics," said St. Norbert head football coach Jim Purtill. "He wants to have a career in the military. That's a lot on the plate, he's handled it very well."
Keller says there is carry-over from one group to the other, specifically decision-making and working as a team. There are also the friendships he's made in both activities.
"Just having your brothers you meet in both football and ROTC worlds," said Keller. "Getting to know them, it's awesome, I can't think of any other school where it would've worked out. This is just the perfect atmosphere for what happened."