The three-day period of the NFL Draft is one of the most exciting and agonizing times for college football prospects.
Players with professional hopes wait with anticipation to get the phone call they have worked so hard for – an NFL team calling them to say they have selected them.
There were 253 players selected in this year’s draft, but Arkansas’
Although Nelson was disappointed with not being drafted, that frustration quickly disappeared when New Orleans Saints’ Assistant Secondary Coach Andre Curtis called him to tell him the Saints wanted to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
Nelson was born and raised in New Orleans and was a standout football player at Destrehan High School. The chance to play for his hometown team was too good to pass up, he said.
“Growing up, I was always a fan of the Saints and getting a chance to represent them is great,” said Nelson. “I was talking with another team when the Saints called, but to play for my hometown team is something I had to take.”
Nelson played in 49 games over four seasons for the Razorbacks, making 169 tackles, 27 for a loss, 10.5 sacks, four interceptions, nine pass defenses, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Last year as a senior, he recorded 70 stops (33 solo), 5.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions, two pass defenses and one fumble recovery.
Nelson said when he graduated from Destrehan, he wanted to attend a college where he would be in the spotlight.
“I wanted to stay in the SEC,” said Nelson. “If you can produce in the best conference, there is no doubt that the NFL will see how talented you are with the level of competition you face each week.”
Prior to attending Destrehan, Nelson prepped at John Curtis Christian High School. However, when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, everything changed for the youngster.
Nelson and his family drove to Baton Rouge after the city residents were ordered to evacuate. What is normally a 45-minute drive took 19 hours, he recalls. His family stayed in Baton Rouge for two weeks before moving back to New Orleans.
While playing for the Razorbacks and pursuing his college education, Nelson kept up with the city’s progress post-Katrina, especially the progress of his hometown Saints. He followed the Black and Gold’s rise to becoming one of the most prominent teams in the NFL. When his favorite team won Super Bowl XLIV, the biggest Saints fan in Fayetteville, Arkansas couldn’t have been prouder.
“A lot of people at Arkansas were Saints fans but not from New Orleans so they would ask a lot of questions,” said Nelson. “That Super Bowl run was incredible to watch.”
Now as Nelson is set to start Rookie Mini Camp on Friday, he hopes to earn a chance to contribute to a potential run for a title that, in an ideal world, would end in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013.
“I’m excited to be here and seeing what is a whole new world,” he said. “We are the young guys that are coming in and have a lot of things to learn in a short amount of time. I’m just hoping to get in the door and learn as much as I can and let that translate to the playing field.”