Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 27, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 50 of 55 NOV. 27, 2021 51 IRISH IN THE PROS studies football like nobody else. He prepares just as hard as anybody else, and he's gifted in more ways than any- body can imagine." On draft day, rookie Colts head coach Frank Reich explained that beyond Nel- son's obvious physical gifts — a skill set that brings more pancakes than a Sunday morning at IHOP — a nasty at- titude, strong leadership, and football acumen made drafting a guard in the first round an easy decision. Nelson concurred. "I try to bring a physical demeanor to every game, punish my guy that I have to block and just do my job," Nelson said. "I take a lot of pride in that." Playing in his fourth season, Nelson has been consistently rated by Pro Foot- ball Focus as the best blocking guard in the NFL. He was a first-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowl selection in each for his first three NFL seasons. And with the way he's playing during his fourth in 2021 — even after missing three games with an ankle injury — expect him to be part of both teams again after this season. Indianapolis was 2-4 on Oct. 24, when Nelson was back in the starting lineup, and it went 3-1 in the first four games upon his return, averaging 154.5 rushing yards. Through games played Nov. 15, the Colts ranked No. 6 in the NFL in rushing offense and had reclaimed a place as a legitimate playoff contender. THE ROOTS TO GREATNESS Well before becoming an NFL mil- lionaire, Nelson had already established himself as a boorish blocker and a no- nonsense team leader at Notre Dame. Not interested in making small talk or sharing personal anecdotes, Nel- son's work ethic and bluntness made this loyal teammate an ideal Irish team captain in 2017. "When we did our [personality] strength surveys, his strength was truth, truthfulness," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly explained that season when asked about Nelson's captainship qualities. "What it's done, really, it's created an accountability. So, if some- one is not doing it the right way, [Nel- son] is not afraid to get up there and tell them, 'That's not how we do it here at Notre Dame.' That's a real good leader to have on your team." Nelson never balked at Kelly's assess- ment. In fact, he stoically embraced it, explaining that when his teammates would, "get off track a little bit, they just need a little bit of guidance." And, at a chiseled 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, and with no tangible body fat, who wasn't going to follow Nelson's advice? "I'm just very up front with all of the teammates," Nelson said matter-of- factly. Nelson became draft eligible in 2017 after his junior year at Notre Dame. But dedicated to resetting the course after a 4-8 season in 2016, coupled with a vow from Kelly that an offseason cul- tural overhaul was coming, the bull- dozer returned for his senior season, much to the dismay of defensive line- men around the country. "I trusted in [Kelly] and he definitely made good on all of the changes he promised," Nelson recalled. "It resulted in a culture change throughout the en- tire team, and it's been awesome to be part of this." Those welcome changes for Nelson were highlighted by a more rigorous off- season workout schedule and increased attention to strength and conditioning training under new performance coach Matt Balis. "Very special," Nelson said of his time on campus. "Notre Dame has chal- lenged me in the classroom and on the field, and it has made me into a better person and the person that I am today, so I am very thankful." ✦ MEMORABILIA MEMORABILIA Call 877-630-8768 to advertise in Blue & Gold Illustrated! M A R K E T P L A C E Vintage Notre Dame Memorabilia Augie's Locker Room ND Stadium Items, Jerseys, Helmets, Autographs and One-of-a-Kind Rockne Items. COME INTO THE STORE TO SEE OUR RARE NOTRE DAME HELMET DISPLAY, 1900 - PRESENT!! Voted Best Notre Dame Collectibles in the Country! 1811 South Bend Ave. South Bend , I n 46637 574-277-NDND (6363) FACEBOOK.COM/AUGIESLOCKERROOM NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL GAMES on VHS or DVD for sale, from 1928 to present. Contact Peter Rahas at 7700 Golden Filly St., Las Vegas, NV 89131 or call 1-702-395-2974 NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL: WEEK 10 HIGHLIGHTS • Jalen Elliott (Played at Notre Dame from 2016-19), S, Detroit Lions: Made four tackles (three solo) in Detroit's 16-16 tie at Pittsburgh … Has played in three games and recorded six tackles (four solo) for the 0-8-1 Lions. • Alohi Gilman (2017-19), S, Los Angeles Chargers: Started and notched six stops (two solo) in the Chargers' 27-20 home loss to Minnesota … Has played in eight games, with two starts, for 5-4 Los Angeles, and compiled 30 tackles (18 solo) and one interception. • Julian Okwara (2016-19), LB, Detroit Lions: Made two solo tackles and notched his first career NFL interception in the Lions' 16-16 tie at Pittsburgh … Has appeared in all nine games for 0-8-1 Detroit, recording 13 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and one interception. • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (2017-20), LB, Cleveland Browns: Returned from injured reserve to make four tackles (three solo) in Cleveland's 45-7 loss at New England … Started five of the seven games he has played in for the 5-5 Browns, and has recorded 30 tackles, four passes defended and one forced fumble. • Brock Wright (2017-20), TE, Detroit Lions: Made the first catch of his NFL career, for two yards, in the Lions' 16-16 tie at Pittsburgh … Spent the first nine weeks of the season on the practice squad before being elevated to 0-8-1 Detroit's active roster Nov. 8.

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