There is a story that perfectly describes who Dan Nystrom is. But you haven't heard this one--it's not about what a great season he is having, or that miraculous kick in 1999 that beat second-ranked Penn State. It's about how he proposed to his girlfriend, Summer.
Dan baked Summer his special banana bread accompanied by a rose for when she woke up. He left her flowers every few hours throughout the day with a Bible verse attached. When she arrived home, Dan was waiting for her, playing a song on the piano that he had learned just for this occasion. The ring was attached to a gold-dipped rose; they celebrated by driving for an evening in Summer's favorite car, a rented Porsche Boxster.
It has nothing to do with football. But it has a lot to do with three other things central to Nystrom's life: his family, his fiance, and his faith.
A senior from New Hope, Minn., Nystrom has the luxury of having his family close enough to Minneapolis to have season tickets. His parents, sisters, grandmother and many aunts, uncles and cousins meld every game into what Nystrom calls, with a modest smile, "a huge fan club." Always prepared with love and advice, the Nystrom family has supported Dan when he has needed it most.
"Being so close with my family influences me a lot, especially as a kicker. I have gone through some good times and some bad times, and they are there for me no matter what," Nystrom said.
His final season upon him, Nystrom has been checking out his chances of playing in the NFL. Because of his and Summer's family ties in the state, he would like to play with the Vikings, but he says he isn't incredibly picky. One thing Nystrom did stress was that it is a definite vision for the future--but not the present.
"I'm trying not to get all caught up in the records and looking at the NFL. I want to enjoy my last year of college and college football as much as I can. Obviously I want to be successful too, and hopefully that will produce an opportunity to play in the NFL."
One thing Nystrom focuses on besides his football career is music. Nystrom has sung all his life, from being a member of the Metropolitan Boys' Choir when he was young to singing for Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush. Now, Nystrom sings frequently at University events with teammate and best friend Ben Utecht.
"One of the best things is to go somewhere to sing with Ben, have our names introduced as Gopher football players and everyone sits back and thinks, 'Oh, this is probably going to be terrible,' and afterwards for everyone to be pretty impressed with how we sang and ask us to come back."
Nystrom also focuses a lot of his time on his religion. Although he draws a great deal of his strength from his family and his fiance, he also calls on his faith when he needs direction.
"I think it's easier for me as a Christian to be able to keep going through hard times because I can rely on my faith and know that God has a plan for my life," Nystrom said.
This balance of football life and personal life has proven to be beneficial for Nystrom. After spending this summer concentrating on less gridiron-related activities, such as wakeboarding and playing softball, Nystrom said he felt more prepared going into his final season as a Gopher. Coming off of frustration from last year and then the spring game, Nystrom partially credits his off-season relaxation to how well he is kicking this season.
"Devoting myself to other things this summer probably had a lot to do with how I'm performing now. I think I needed to collect my thoughts and rejuvenate myself in order to be able to focus and be confident," Nystrom said.
Clearly, Nystrom's focus and confidence on the field comes from more than just his performances as a placekicker for the Golden Gophers. It's a safe assumption that without his family, his fianc,e and his faith, Dan Nystromwould not have reached the heights he has - on and off the field.
Written by Athletics Media Relations Student Assistant Kimberly Jackson
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