Brothers Chad Kelsay, ’98, and Chris Kelsay, ’02, bookended one of the most successful eras of Nebraska football, capturing three conference championships and two national titles. The Auburn, Nebraska, natives both majored in finance at the College of Business and credit their parents for their work ethic.
“From an early age, our parents made it clear academics were more important than athletic endeavors,” Chad said. “The things that enabled us to have success in school and athletics growing up, such as time management, working hard and setting goals, were the same things that transferred to our college careers.”
Chad’s journey to Nebraska started when he performed well at Big Red Football Camp. After receiving a scholarship, Chad heard some doubted he would play as a Husker.
“My goals turned into not only making it at the Division I level, but to play right away,” said Chad, who also received an offer from Kansas State. “I was never the smartest, biggest, fastest or strongest guy, but I did try as hard as I could. I was fortunate to play as a true freshman on the 1995 national championship team.”
By graduation, Chad earned a second championship ring, the Native Son Award and First and Second Team Academic All-American honors. Chad called the academic and life skills staff a “tremendous resource” at Nebraska.
“Chad wanted to be part of the team, so he worked hard to be the best version of himself,” said Dennis LeBlanc, executive associate athletic director for academics. “He started the trend of coming to Nebraska in the summer to train. It was unheard of for a small-town kid to start as a freshman, and he accomplished it at a time when the Huskers were loaded with talent.”
Ten Nebraska players from that team continued their football careers in the NFL. Chad played two years for the Pittsburgh Steelers before a short stint with the St. Louis Rams.
Chris followed his brother to Nebraska in 1998 despite Michigan extending him an offer. With “self-induced pressure” due to his brother’s success, he wanted to make an impact and continue the Huskers success.
“Early on, I leaned heavily on my brother,” said Chris. “He was a senior my freshman year, and I knew he had experienced many of the hurdles I was facing. Having him present was invaluable.”
Midway through his first season, Chris made a difficult decision. Though also wanting to play as a true freshman, he found it was in his best interest to redshirt.
“It turned out to be one of the best decisions for my development,” said Chris, who won the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Postgraduate Scholarship and earned First Team Academic Big 12 four times. After graduation, he played 10 years as a defensive end for the Buffalo Bills.
“Chris rode under the radar. If you asked him to do something, he did it. He led by example,” said LeBlanc. “They both were high-achieving students and great football players who just took care of their business.”
The brothers knew football wouldn’t last forever. When Chad returned to Nebraska after the NFL, he worked at an insurance brokerage. One of his clients, Trey Mytty, offered him an opportunity at Truck Center Companies (TCC) headquartered in Omaha, with 18 locations throughout Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota.
“Responsible for truck sales, I work closely with our dealerships to grow our customer base,” said Chad, who is executive vice president of sales. He and his wife, Carie, reside in Omaha with their two sons, Tennyson, 12, and Jameson, 9.
“The daily structure and routine as a player benefitted me,” Chris said. “In fact, when I retired from the NFL, it was the first time in 20 years I did not have someone telling me where to go, what to do and how to do it.”
Chris, who met his wife, Natalie, ’01, from Norfolk while in college, spent his time off with family and friends hunting and fishing. The couple married and expanded their family while Chris played in the NFL. Today they live in Gretna with Harper, 14; Avery, 12; and Rhett, 10.
Chris became operations manager at TCC 18 months after moving back to Nebraska.
“I’m involved in insurance, safety and compliance and oversee maintenance, new construction and expansion projects. I’m also our Dealer Family Continuous Improvement Coordinator and work with our locations to make operations more efficient,” said Chris.
With the transportation industry deemed an essential business, Chris said TCC “remained as normal as possible” during COVID-19.
“Business and athletics are very similar,” said Chad. “We set goals. Our processes are structured. We compete daily and are here to win.”
Published: January 7, 2021