CEDAR FALLS – UNI head football coach Mark Farley has announced a pair of additions to the Panther coaching staff for the 2023 season, as well as one promotion to a current staff member.
The Panthers welcome back longtime former offensive line coach Rick Nelson to Cedar Falls, as well as former UNI defensive back Keelon Brookins to coach the Panther cornerbacks. Tight ends coach Drew Tate has also been promoted to a full-time member of the coaching staff.
RICK NELSON – Offensive Line
Nelson begins his second stint as UNI’s offensive line coach after spending the previous eight years as a physical education teacher and head football coach at Ankeny High School, where he won a Class 4A state championship in 2020. During his first go-around with the Panthers from 2000 through 2015, Nelson coached 22 FCS All-Americans and 29 All-Conference selections.
UNI made the FCS playoffs 8 times during Nelson’s first tenure with a pair of trips to the national semifinals (2001, 2008), an appearance in the 2005 national championship game and an undefeated regular season in 2007. Two UNI linemen who would reach the NFL under Nelson, including Brandon Keith, a 7th round pick in 2008 by the Arizona Cardinals, and Austin Howard, 2010 free agent signing by the Philadelphia Eagles who went on to play 9 seasons in the league.
Prior to his time in Cedar Falls, Nelson coached 11 seasons at Southwest Missouri State (known today as Missouri State). During his time in Springfield, Nelson helped the Bears set 35 offensive records, and saw six players earn All-American honors. 20 Southwest Missouri State athletes earned All-Gateway Conference recognition, with two being named to the conference’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. Nelson also coached Jason Whittle during his tenure with the Bears, who played 11 seasons in the NFL with the Giants, Buccaneers, Vikings and Bills.
Nelson, an Urbandale, Iowa native and 1986 UNI graduate, is married to his wife Jamie. They have two children, Nick and Wes.
KEELON BROOKINS – Defensive Backs
Brookins returns to UNI for his second stint with the Panthers after coaching defensive backs at Kent State in 2022. During his lone season with the Golden Eagles, Brookins coached Third Team All-MAC defensive back Nico Bolden to a breakout season in which he led Kent State in total tackles (103).
Brookins played the first three years of his collegiate career at Wisconsin before transfering to UNI ahead of the 2017 season. He recorded 33 tackles with 6 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and a pair of interceptions to earn MVFC All-Newcomer Team honors. Brookins ended his collegiate career by helping the Panthers earn a trip to the second round of the FCS playoffs.
Brookins joined the UNI staff in 2018 on defense, helping coach 9 all-conference cornerbacks during his first tenure. The Panthers reached the FCS playoffs three times during his first four years on staff, including a trip to the FCS quarterfinals in 2019.
Brookins is a native of St. Paul, Minnesota and is married to his wife Olivia. They have one child, Hendrix.
DREW TATE – Tight Ends
Tate joined the UNI staff in 2022 as a part-time coach working with Panther tight ends. In his first season with the purple and gold, he helped Panther tight ends account for 33 receptions, 470 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns as part of UNI’s MVFC-leading offensive unit.
A native of Baytown, Texas, Tate played three seasons as a quarterback at the University of Iowa (2004-06), earning First Team All-Big Ten honors with over 2,700 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes en route to a share of the Big Ten championship in 2004. Tate is best known for his game-winning 56-yard touchdown pass to Warren Holloway on the final play of the 2005 Capital One Bowl, where the Hawkeyes defeated reigning national champion LSU, 30-25.
Following a brief stint on the St. Louis Rams roster in 2007, Tate played 11 seasons in the CFL, winning a pair of Grey Cup championships with the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2007) and Calgary Stampeders (2014). Tate entered coaching in 2018 as a defensive analyst at Coastal Carolina, before returning to the CFL in 2019 as quarterbacks’ coach with the BC Lions. He briefly coached receivers in the short-lived Spring League in 2020, before working as the quarterbacks’ coach at UT Martin in 2021.