By David Elwell
For the Decatur Daily

The gym at Falkville High School is decorated like a lot of gyms in the area. The walls are crowded with portraits and photos honoring individuals and teams for their athletic success. Walk in Falkville's gym, look straight ahead behind the goal at the far end and there is one for Jane Nelson. Next to it is one for Sandy Fields. Nelson and Fields married in 1996. "Jane's was the first one to go up," Fields said. "She was a year ahead of me. She graduated in '82. Mine was the second one to go up. Some people think they are there together because we got married. It just worked out that way."

Jane Nelson Fields died of ovarian cancer in 2005.

Jerry Thompson coached the first girls basketball team at Falkville in 1978. Jane Nelson was one of the players. "I never will forget our first game," Thompson said. "We went to Elkmont and won 12-8. We couldn't throw it into the ocean. I think Jane scored 10 of the 12. "We had a lot of good role players on that team. Jane's role was to score. She was a total team player and didn't like being the one scoring the points, but that was our best chance to win. I had to press her, almost threaten her, to shoot the ball.

"Nelson closed out her career in 1982 averaging 20 points a game and being named to the All-State team."She loved basketball and was so competitive," Thompson said. "You could drive through Falkville and see her dribbling a basketball while walking down the street."

After playing basketball at Calhoun and North Alabama, Nelson went into teaching and coaching. Along the way she became awife and mother to a son, Caleb. "We dated some my senior year in high school," Sandy remembered. "I went to college at Auburn. She was at Calhoun and UNA. We stayed in touch. In the '90s, we started dating again. We came a long way from when we would play some really competitive basketball against each other."

Nelson taught and coached at Speake and Hazlewood before getting closer to home at Eva. The principal at Eva was her first high school basketball coach. "She was as competitive a coach as she was a player," Thompson said. "During on Christmas break she was going to have her team practice every day. Some of the parents got upset because some of them had planned trips out of town. I had to tell her these girls weren't like her. Basketball wasn't that important. They didn't grow up with a basketball in their hand all the time like she did. I think she gave them two days off."

Jane was forced to retire due to illness in 2002. She died Dec. 15, 2005. The Morgan County Tournament girls Most Valuable Player award was named in her Honor "Her death was such a tragedy," Thompson said. "It was a sad day for me and a lot of people in Morgan County."

A scholarship program was established in her honor. It goes to a senior female athlete in the Morgan County school system. "Everybody liked Jane," her husband said. "She was not only a great athlete, but also a great person. A lot of wonderful people have honored her by helping with this scholarship program. "It's so rewarding to meet these young ladies each year and know that this program is making a difference in their life. Jane would be so happy and so proud."

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