‘A DREAM COME TRUE’
FDSH grad will be at Super Bowl to cheer on her son, an-ex Iowa star
WAUKEE — When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially clinched the NFC Championship with a victory over Green Bay at Lambeau Field, Christy (Balster) Nelson had to pinch herself.
“It was all so surreal. It still is,” said Nelson, a 1990 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate. “I’m not sure if it’s completely sunk in, and it probably won’t until Sunday.
“Usually, we get together and watch the Super Bowl (on television). Now, we’re going to be there.”
Nelson’s family has more than just a rooting interest in Sunday’s big game. Her son, Anthony — a former Waukee High School and University of Iowa standout — is a second-year outside linebacker for the Buccaneers.
“It’s just amazing that he gets to do this. Really, a dream come true,” Christy said. “Every football player wants to be able to say they’ve played in a Super Bowl. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, determination and good timing. As my husband (Jeff) and I have pointed out before, it takes so much talent, luck, and the ability to both believe in yourself and have the right support system (in place) along the way.
“Anthony is blessed. We are blessed.”
The 6-foot-7, 271-pound Nelson was a fourth-round NFL Draft selection by the Bucs in 2019. He recorded 18 tackles and a sack this year, seeing the field in all 16 of Tampa Bay’s regular-season contests.
The 23-year-old Nelson is No. 98 for the Buccaneers — the same jersey number he wore as a two-time all-Big Ten pick and academic All-American at Iowa.
Christy Nelson went to three of Anthony’s games this year. Jeff and Anthony’s brother, Nathan, attended a few more. All three of them — along with Jeff’s father, Jerry — made the trip to Green Bay and watched Tampa Bay capture the NFC title and a berth in Super Bowl LV.
“COVID obviously made things a challenge — especially early on, when no fans were allowed,” said Christy, a former Dodger letterwinner in basketball, volleyball and cross country. “But like everyone else, we made the most of it.
“We can’t see him at all before the game (the Nelson family flew to Tampa on Friday), but we’re staying until Wednesday to spend some time with (Anthony and his fiancee, fellow Waukee grad and high-school sweetheart Jordyn Steinkritz).”
Christy added the rules are strict for attendees at Raymond James Stadium, where the Buccaneers will be the first “host” franchise in Super Bowl history. Players were kept from the general public leading up to Sunday’s game, and visitors have to isolate and test, along with following all of the typical face-covering and social-distancing procedures.
“Everyone is trying to do their part and be super careful,” said Christy, a program associate in special education with the Waukee School District. “Even with the four tickets we have, they’re spaced out from others (attendance is expected to be around 25,000 in the 65,890-seat stadium).”
Anthony and Jordyn purchased a home in Tampa last April. Their wedding is planned for June.
“They love being in Florida,” Christy said. “Tampa Bay seems to be a really good fit for Anthony. I know he really respects his teammates and coaches, and he’s been learning a lot these first two years. I think he gets a little more comfortable and confident with (each passing week).
“We had been there for the Outback Bowl (when Nelson played for Iowa), so we already knew the area. And obviously, there are no complaints about the weather in Florida.”
The Nelson family continues to be appreciative of the support Anthony received leading up to the big game on Sunday.
“I know a lot of people (in and around Iowa) root for either Green Bay or Kansas City, so there are understandably mixed emotions,” Christy laughed. “I’ve heard a lot of, ‘we’re supporting Anthony, but still cheering for the Packers or the Chiefs.’ It’s all in good fun. But the well-wishes and the attention — whether it’s the Waukee district, Des Moines, the Hawkeye community or just the state in general — has been awesome.
“It means a lot to all of us. This is a special moment, and we’re looking forward to seeing it live and cheering Anthony on.”
The Super Bowl matchup between Tampa Bay and defending champion Kansas City kicks off at 5:30 p.m. local time on Sunday.