Kristina KoKo Nelson, who joined the football staff at Vanderbilt University in February, 2021, serves as the recruiting operations coordinator. She began her Commodore tenure as the assistant on-campus recruiting coordinator before taking on her current role in May, 2021.

Nelson spent the 2019 and 2020 two seasons with the Minnesota football program as a recruiting and graphics design assistant. During her time with the Golden Gophers the team went 14-6 and captured the 2019 Outback Bowl with a 31-34 victory against Auburn.

A Notre Dame graduate, Nelson was a 2018 NCAA national champion with the women’s basketball program. As a fifth-year senior in 2018, she led the team in field goal percentage at 62.0 percent (85-137). She was a student-athlete from 2013-18 and a two-time ACC All-Academic honoree.

While at Notre Dame, Nelson also worked as a graphic design intern, creating graphics for all sports to use on, emails and social media. She also worked as an intern with Winning Edge Leadership and made custom social media graphics for leadership retreat participants.

KoKo and Stuart have an inspiring conversation regarding leadership, excellence and courage. This is going to be a great listen!


I arrived at the address and honked the horn. 

After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift, I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor….

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she asked. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, “Could you drive through downtown please?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry…

“… I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued in a soft voice. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

“What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds 

She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.” 

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she insisted.

“There are other passengers,” I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.

Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. 

I drove aimlessly lost in thought. 

For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk…

I just kept thinking…

What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? 

What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware…

Beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Let’s dive into John 9:1-12 for a second…

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”

But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”

He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”

“Where is he now?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

I recently had a conversation with an incredible leader who relayed a fascinating, incredible insight into the depth of this healing by Jesus….

Many eye surgeons believe Jesus’ healing of the man born blind was one of His greatest miracles.  

Each eye has around 1.2 million nerve endings behind each eye. 53% of those nerve endings crisscross and then run to the back of the brain to connect with another million or so nerves that deal with balance, equilibrium, etc.   

If you were to sew shut the eyes of one-day old infant — which you would never do — and open them one year later, the baby would be “brain blind.” 

That child would never have normal eyesight.

Jesus had to heal the man’s brain and all those nerve endings before he healed his eyes.

Even today, science cannot completely restore a person born blind — a condition known amblyopia.

Perhaps our inability to see opportunities to be a leader worth following has less to do with seeing the opportunities and more to do with our minds being set to see those opportunities.

Perhaps we need to pray that Jesus would heal our minds first.

Journal your thoughts so we can dive into this idea in the Circle…

Leave a Reply