Franklin Regional lineman Nesler takes up cause of disabled veterans

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Sunday, May 15, 2022 | 5:00 PM


Inspired by what he heard and saw, Andrew Nesler set out to help — a good soldier wanting to pay back an army of them for their service.

A junior football player at Franklin Regional, Nesler formed a fundraiser called “DefenseForDefense” aimed at raising money for disabled war veterans.

The venture is a partnership with Semper Fi Odyssey. Nesler’s public-spirited goal is to raise $30,000 or more for his cause.

He is asking people to pledge and donate based on his defensive statistics in the fall. He is a 6-foot-2, 285-pound lineman.

The categories are: tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and turnovers forced.

This is not a school or team project. Nesler came up with the idea on his own after an experience with a man he calls his mentor, Tim Florian of Murrysville.

A Desert Storm veteran, Florian inspired Nesler. He is the junior’s character coach through Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“His teachings have taught me that I need to not only work in the best interest of myself, but in the interest of the community,” Nesler said. “I was brought to Semper Fi Odyssey in Boswell by Florian for a leadership experience and was exposed to what they were all about.”

The event was as jaw-dropping as it was eye-opening for Nesler.

“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “I met a man who recently served in the military. He was just relearning how to speak for the first time after sustaining a crippling landmine related injury, his skull completely disfigured from the injury. He was in a deep coma for nine months. He awoke to his whole life flipped upside down: wife left and took the kids, never to be found again. He was relearning how to talk and suffering from the severe PTSD he had acquired from serving us as citizens.

“I thought to myself, ‘How can I help this dude out?’ ”

Nesler was already familiar with what Penn-Trafford lineman Jack Jollie did last year in raising money for bullet-proof vests for local police though his tackles. That also gave him hope the personal project could work.

“I acted on this desire, and here we are,” Nesler said. “My top objective is to give back to those who have given so much for us, to turn the disabled into ‘abled’ citizens again.”

Nesler said his goal is to “smash” the $30,000 goal.

“But if that doesn’t happen, I’m glad I provided awareness to veterans that rehabilitation services such as Semper Fi Odyssey exist and want to help them.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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