By Jeannie Blaylock
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- He's a star to Gators fans, who watched him help the team win the National Championship against Ohio State.
Now Jaguars fans are watching Reggie Nelson.
As much media attention as he gets, Nelson isn't too keen on talking a lot, especially about family matters.
One big reason is losing his mom to breast cancer. That's still hard on Reggie.
I met Reggie when we taped a promotion for the North Florida Komen Race for the Cure.
He was such a great guy during the taping session and I thought maybe he might share the story about his mom.
He was hesitant, and I understand. He and his agent told me he'd already turned down ESPN for this particular interview.
But eventually Reggie decided to tell the story, in hopes it would help other women.
Reggie says he didn't know his mom had breast cancer until he went home for vacation during his early college years. He says, "Everyone was just sitting in the living room." He asked his family what was wrong.
He mom eventually took off her wig and explained to Reggie she had breast cancer.
It was like a ton of bricks hitting Reggie. "I was shocked," he says. He wishes he would have known sooner and it hadn't been kept a secret.
But he remembers that no matter how much pain she was in, his mom always smiled.
Reggie's mom passed away just about a week before the Gators beat Ohio State for the National Championship in Arizona.
Click on the video button to watch the interviews with Reggie.
He talks about losing his mom and a special tradition he had with her. As many Gator fans know, Reggie and his mom always talked on the phone before each game. At the National Championship Reggie was painfully aware of missing that phone call.
Reggie encourages all women to be vigilant about breast cancer. "My mom never went to the doctor and got check-ups. I think all women should go to the doctor," he says.
Reggie says about his mom, "She always is going to be in my heart. I just wish she could be here to watch me play in the NFL. But she's watching over me. I just can't see her."
The NFL player is well-known for being a hard-hitter. But when it gets right down to his family, he says a simple, but powerful statement: "You only got one mom. Nobody can ever replace your mom."
Reggie says his mom's inspiration sticks with him all the time.
"She believed in me before I believed in myself."
First Coast News