The offseason, leading up to the 2013 season, was the first time since Bryshon Nellum was shot in 2009 that he didn’t spend it rehabbing from surgery.
After flirting with the idea of turning pro, Nellum decided to return to USC for a sixth year with one goal in mind — to become a national champion.
Part 2 of Nellum recapping his miraculous journey in his own words as told to FOXSportsWest.com.
“Of course, when you hear somebody got shot, you think they’re up to no good or you think they’re a troublemaker or whatever. Innocent people get shot just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. You can’t really stereotype anyone unless you hear it from the horse’s mouth. People always like to hear the story because then they get the realness out of it.
“They understand. ‘Oh, that’s what happened. Oh, I see now.’ Those are the types of comments I hear when I tell them this is what happened. After that they look at me a whole different way. I just tell them that I was shot in both of my legs randomly. I don’t know why but I was just shot. I was walking across the street leaving a restaurant and I was just shot in both legs. That’s all I know.
“Going through this incident just made me more appreciative of the gift that I have and more humble and more cool in certain situations and more wise and I experienced other things that I probably would have never experienced if that didn’t happen. I think it has its reasonings.
“I came back to USC for another year. I was confident after that Olympic experience in 2012. I’ve been at the big stage so any level I ran at, I knew I was going to be able to perform because I was able to perform at the Olympic Games and nothing is better than the Olympic Games.
I came back and opened the Florida relays with one of the best world-leading times, 45.5. Then came back to Mt. Sac and ran at Mt. Sac consistently and after that it was the Dual Meet against UCLA and it was at our home track. That was some confidence too. Being at your home stadium you had all the support there. The energy was live and I ended up doubling, winning the 400 and the 200. I actually PR’d in the 200. Now I’m able to sprint.
“Then Pac-12 came and I was the defending champ from Pac-12 and so my main goal was to defend my title in the 400. But, when I started doubling, I was always looking back at high school. I doubled in high school. I ran the 400 and I ran the 200 my junior year and my senior year and won (state championships in) both. That was always my goal in college. Now that I became healthy and I was able to sprint, I was going to do both. Pac-12 came and it was time for a breakthrough. Won the 400 at 44.7. That was my PR. I came back in the finals in the 200 and ran 20.2. That right there put me at No. 1 in college in the 400 and the 200. The potential was there. Coach (Ron Allice) was like ‘What do you want to do? Do you want to double or do you just want to run the 400?’ I’m like ‘Coach, I’m doing good in the 200. Why not? Let’s double.’
“Before regionals, we had graduation. Graduation was actually one of the best feelings because after all I’ve been through I could have not come back. Not only had I graduated. I finished my academic side with a degree in real estate development, I’m back healthy and I’m finishing my athletic side as well. It was just a blessing to overcome and see the other side of the stick. It’s nothing but success and opened doors for me for more success. The graduation ceremony was amazing. My family was out there supporting me. After graduation we had regionals.
“We go to regionals and we just go just to qualify. We go out there and we qualify in both. It was huge we get through healthy because every time I ran at regionals I always got hurt. This time I was able to get through and we were healthy.
“The main goal for me from the start was to get that national championship. However the 200 plays out, the 200 plays out but the main goal was to come back and dominate that 400. I was just focused. I could barely sleep though really because I was always thinking about running and thinking about that title and how it would be after I crossed that line.
“After running the first round I was kind of exhausted. Why do I feel this way? How am I going to get through the rest of the meet? I still have three more days to run and I’m tired and I’m sore. What it was is that first race had opened me up. When I came back the second day, I went 19.99 in the 200 which put me No. 1 overall qualifying to get to the finals. I came back the next day and went 44.7, PR’d again and won the 400.
“At this point I’m a national champ.
“That’s the main reason I even came back to school was to be a national champ, so I had in my mind and I was determined that I’m going to be a national champ by the time NCAAs come around. Whatever I had to do to get there, that’s what I’m going to do. So, when I got there, it was like ‘Yes! We reached our goal. Yes! We accomplished what we wanted to do.’
“So it was a good feeling inside. I was happy and now it’s looking for the future. No matter whatever happens in the future and how old I get I can always say that I was 2013 400-meter national champ.
“I wouldn’t call it a surprise. I just call it another chapter in my journey — another chapter in my story.”