Ron Kellogg III talks to student
Ron Kellogg III checks in a student during the Lincoln Community Learning Centers' 2023 middle school spring break camp. Photo by Porter Pearson

A decade after his time wearing a Husker uniform came to a close, former Nebraska quarterback Ron Kellogg III continues to strive to make an impact on the city that gave him the chance to live his dream.

As a ‘community builder’ for Lincoln Public Schools and their associated community learning centers, Kellogg strives to create strong relationships between local schools and the families, neighbors and businesses in the surrounding areas. He aims to create a community in Lincoln that is tight-knit and self-sufficient. A community that wants the best for everyone. Working with local community learning centers, he looks to create that same kind of atmosphere for students.

On a day-to-day basis, Kellogg says he bides his time “meeting with folks and having coffee.” In reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. With 11 different schools in his region, Kellogg has a lot on his plate.

In addition to connecting with people in the areas surrounding these schools, Kellogg often meets with the schools’ community coordinators to find ways to advance and support their vision and goals. He also organizes school neighborhood advisory committees, or SNAC groups, and even does some programming alongside curriculum specialists.

This is all for Lincoln Public Schools’ community learning centers, or CLCs, which provide local students with chances to further their learning and enhance their educational experience outside of the classroom. Thirty schools in Lincoln serve as CLCs once the school day is over. Many of these are considered ‘high poverty’ schools, and all of them have at least 40% free or reduced lunch rates. These CLCs focus on student engagement, academic and enrichment opportunities.

“I just love the different opportunities that we can provide for kids in the after school setting,” Kellogg said. “Just to be able to see that and see the cool things that we can do for students that can either enhance their learning or open them to a new world of something they’re passionate about. I was stuck to it.”

This wasn’t always the plan for Kellogg though.

After he graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2013 with a degree in sociology, Kellogg stayed in Lincoln and took a job as a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual. Yet, his visibility as a Husker quarterback quickly proved to be as much of a hurdle as it was an advantage.

“I figured, ‘well, I might as well stay here and try to get a big boy job,’” Kellogg said. “After a year and a half or so, it just wasn’t my jam. People weren’t as open with talking about finances with someone that just got out of college and that they saw just got out of college.”

So, he decided it was time for a change. Kellogg began having discussions with people in the nonprofit education field. Soon, he realized that he could use his background in sports to make a difference in the lives of kids in Lincoln. In 2015, Kellogg took the leap and accepted a position as the athletic director and director of sports and recreation at the Dawes Middle School CLC.

Nola Derby-Bennett, the director of community learning centers for Lincoln Public Schools and the person who hired Kellogg for the role, said she remembers being impressed with Kellogg’s ability to work with students from the start.

“He was a total kid magnet,” Derby-Bennett recalled. “I knew for sure that the students at Dawes would benefit from his presence there just because he was so positive and would be somebody that the kids would just be drawn to.”

For Kellogg, the position was an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of Lincoln students. As a former athlete, he welcomed the opportunity to make sports fun instead of stressful for students.

Looking back on that season of his career, Kellogg points to his first group of students as an example of how memorable and rewarding the work he did at Dawes was.

“When they graduated high school, they came back and told me that they had this scholarship to go to this place, they’re doing this sport,” Kellogg said. “It was kind of a humbling moment for me. It was like we talked about all these things, I remember all the questions they asked me – and they actually listened. I was kind of shocked by that.”

After three years as the athletic director and director of sports and recreation at Dawes, Kellogg took over as the CLC director for the middle school. He remained in the position until May of last year, when he decided to take a run at another position: community builder.

There are four total community builders in Lincoln, each appointed to help grow one of the city’s four quadrants. When the builder in Kellogg’s section left in 2021, he took on some extra responsibility while the spot remained vacant.

“It got to the point where I was kind of doing both, my job and the community builder role,” Kellogg said. “So, I just decided last year that I was like, ‘well, if it’s still open I’m just going to apply for it’ … I knew it was open and I was aware of what it was, I just didn’t know what they did. So, it was kind of like a shot in the dark.”

But the experience Kellogg gained and the vision that he displayed during his time at Dawes proved to be exactly what was needed. The work he had done at the CLC set him apart during the application process and eventually landed him the job.

Going into the hiring process, Kellogg also had someone in his corner. As she had been when he applied for his role at Dawes, Derby-Bennett was in charge of hiring for the position. This time she knew exactly what Kellogg brought to the table.

“When he applied for the community builder position, I was super excited because some of the cool things that he did at Dawes we were going to be able to do on a bigger scale with more schools,” Derby-Bennett said.

Past that, Derby-Bennett believed that Kellogg was going to be able to use his passion for CLC work and coach other school community coordinators who didn’t quite have the same vision or ability to see the bigger picture.

That knack for getting the best out of others has always been a talent of Kellogg’s.

Tim Beck, a former Nebraska offensive coordinator and the current head coach at Coastal Carolina, said he remembers Kellogg’s influence as a veteran presence during a 2013 season that featured a quarterback room that included four-year starter Taylor Martinez and redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong. 

“Ronnie knew how to alleviate the pressure from Taylor, he knew how to get Tommy to relax and just play football as a young freshman,” Beck said. “I’ve always been hard on the quarterbacks, and Ronnie knew how to keep everybody loose and keep reminding them that it’s a game.”

Joining the team in 2011, Beck spent three years working closely with Kellogg. During that time, Beck notes that Kellogg grew into a tremendous leader. The coach points to Kellogg’s understanding of his role and the game of football as well as the quarterback’s perseverance, attitude and competitive drive as being a driving force for the team and the quarterback room. 

Of all the traits Kellogg demonstrated during his time at Nebraska, none stand out more than perseverance.

Despite receiving scholarship offers from Northwest Missouri State and North Dakota out of Omaha Westside, Kellogg decided to join the Huskers as a walk-on. By the end of his sophomore year, he had worked his way from scout team MVP to regular member of the travel roster. By the 2013 season, he had earned a long-awaited scholarship.

The culmination of his hard work came in a 2013 matchup against Northwestern, when Kellogg wrote his name in the Nebraska record book.

On the final play of the game, Kellogg threw a 49-yard touchdown to Jordan Westerkamp to beat the Wildcats 27-24. The play, named ‘Geronimo,’ was the first game-winning Hail Mary touchdown pass in the school’s history and made Kellogg a Nebraska celebrity overnight.

“It was surreal because I never practiced that,” Kellogg said. “Usually, we practiced that towards the end of the week. So, I always watched people do that. So for me to actually do it, it was like, ‘wow, I guess you really don’t have to practice to do it.’”

Despite having just 941 passing yards and seven touchdowns during his time in Lincoln, Kellogg is both widely recognized and greatly cherished by Husker football fans. 

One reason for this is that, both on and off the field, Kellogg provided fans with a great example of what it means to wear the scarlet and cream. The hard work, dedication and leadership that he demonstrated while with the team left a lasting effect on his coaches, teammates and anyone who watched from home.

“He’s a tremendous young man,” Beck said. “He cared about people. He valued friendships. He respected people. He worked hard. He was very grateful for the opportunities and the blessings that he got from God and he took advantage of it – not  in a bad way but he honored that. He appreciated where he was at. He appreciated his friendships. He appreciated football. He appreciated and respected the people around it and what the game stood for. It’s why he had success as a player and the perseverance and toughness and patience to endure the way he did. It’s no surprise for him to be where he’s at right now doing the same thing.”

This is a feeling that is corroborated by those who he shared the field with. Armstrong, who split time with Kellogg during the 2013 season, describes his former teammate as an “energy block.”

“Everybody knew Ron as the guy that made everybody laugh in meetings,” Armstrong said. “But at the same time, he knew how to turn that switch on and be able to focus up. I learned a lot from him not just in the football area, but also just my demeanor, my character, the way that I walked around campus.”

Armstrong, now quarterback for the Omaha Beef of the Champions Indoor Football league and offensive coordinator at Lincoln North Star High School, went on to have one of the most illustrious careers in Nebraska history. He finished first all-time in career passing yards, completions, touchdown passes, total offense, total touchdowns and starts at the quarterback position.

Named captain during his sophomore year at Nebraska, Armstrong recalled the emphasis that the program and upperclassmen placed on community service during his first few years with the team as being influential in his development as a leader.

“Understanding and getting those perks from Ron and Taylor of understanding what I needed to do to be the guy and have everybody look at me as a leader and captain, I think that came along with community service,” Armstrong said. “It was more, ‘hey, show those guys you’re gonna be a leader off the field before you show them that you can be a leader on the field.’”

This was a sentiment that Kellogg took to heart. Throughout his career at Nebraska, he strived to lead by example and push others to do the same. Thinking back, he said he remembers an acronym the team used in their workouts, ARC: accountable, resilient, competitive. The acronym became a motivator for Kellogg off the field too. He consistently applied it to his everyday life and used it as a motivator to get things done and keep a level head.

This carried over into his free time as well. Kellogg became an active member of the community during his time with the team, earning a variety of awards for his work. 

During his five years with the Huskers, he was named to the Brook Berringer Citizenship Team (2012, 2013) and the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team (2014), both of which recognize Nebraska athletes for their volunteer and community service efforts. Kellogg was also presented with the Nebraska Student-Athlete HERO Leadership Award (2012) and the Tom Novak Award (2013), which recognizes the senior who “best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds.”

Ten years later, Kellogg continues to have that same kind of impact on the Lincoln community.

In addition to his work as a community builder, Kellogg is also a part of Leadership Lincoln, a nonprofit that aims to empower local local leaders from various industries by providing knowledge, experience and connections to help them grow. He’s also a member of the Advocates 16 Cohort, a network of community leaders from a variety of fields with the purpose of building a better community through developing leadership and service skills.

Yet, even with the chalk-full schedule, Kellogg has found a passion in this line of work.

“I don’t really consider this a job,” Kellogg said. “It’s very fun. To the point where I’m shocked I get paid sometimes for what I do.”

It has been almost a year since he was designated as a community builder, and Kellogg has already begun to see recognition for the work he has been a part of. Recently, Kellogg and Lincoln CLCs were presented with a Community Leadership Award by the Institute for Educational Leadership for ‘Walk Together,’ a project that Kellogg began during his last year at Dawes and that launched in March of this year.

Kellogg doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Both with his work with Lincoln CLCs and outside of that field, he has big plans for the future.

As a community builder, one of Kellogg’s major goals is to connect with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lincoln CLCs have already begun working with various smaller schools, such as Nebraska Wesleyan in Kellogg’s region. Yet, he wants to take this to the next level by getting the city’s major university on board with what the CLCs have in store.

Outside of his community work, Kellogg also sees a future in coaching ahead. Currently, he is the offensive coordinator at Standing Bear High School. While he isn’t quite ready to make the leap to be a head coach, Kellogg hasn’t shut the door yet.

“We’ll see what happens here in the future,” he said.