Jordy Nelson is one of the NFL’s most-respected individuals, and his reputation as a leader, diligent worker, and dynamic playmaker will be the reason he is remembered fondly in the history books; however, the veteran wide receiver wants to add his legacy in other ways.
Nelson is in the latter stages of his career, and it’s taken years to become the pro’s pro that he’s grown into. Once mentored by the likes of Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, No. 82 is trying to pass the knowledge and wisdom that was once shared with him down to the next generation.
“Just diving into these young guys, having conversations with Marcell [Ateman] on the sideline about different things,” Nelson said when asked what the rebuilding experience has been like for him personally. “Because again, it’s one thing to know the play, it’s one thing to know the route, but to understand everything that’s going on, and what your purpose is in that concept and that play. Just helping these young guys, that’s where I think you leave your legacy the most, is with the guys after you’re gone. What they’ll say about you, but also what they’ll learn from you. If it’s by talking to them, or just practicing and playing, and you watching. I don’t do too much talking, but once in a while I can give some tidbits, and hopefully that’ll help them have a long career.”
Naturally quiet, and soft spoken, the former Kansas State Wildcat leads by example through his actions, never willing to take a day off, or miss time on the field. In his hay day, Nelson put up 1,000-yard seasons with ease, totaling more than 1,200 yards four separate times, as well as accomplishing the feat three consecutive years. The last time he totaled 1,200 yards in a season was just two years ago, adding 14 touchdowns in the process, but as a member of the Raiders, Nelson’s role has changed, and he’s okay with it.
After spending nearly a decade as Aaron Rodgers’ go-to target in Green Bay, Nelson’s chemistry with Derek Carr has understandably taken some time to build, but in the last month the two have appeared to be on the same page, and the results have shown in Nelson’s production as he’s totaled 29 receptions and 308 yards in the last four games.
“It takes time, nothing happens overnight, and you just continue to work at it,” he said Wednesday. “Chemistry, confidence, me and [Carr], and him and me, and everything else. It just takes time, but there was nothing I was worried about through the whole process, and you just continue to work at it.”
“Anytime you get new receivers and they’re going to be a focal point, it does take some time,” Derek Carr added Wednesday. “I would say that, especially when he came off his injury, he was healthy and we had a lot of time on task. Obviously, I trust him. He’s a great receiver. I think a lot of that has to do with once he got healthy, he was ready to roll. It was really that Colts game where I felt like we were ready to hit it rolling. Then he ended up hitting his knee or whatever and he was out. When he got healthy, just ever since then, he’s a trustworthy guy that does things the right way. Usually guys like that, the ball ends up finding them.”
Nelson is under contract through 2019, and the connection between he and Carr should continue next season. Even though he’ll be turning 34 in May, Nelson has no desire to write the final page of his story just yet. He’s still operating at a high level, and he isn’t finished mentoring the younger players on the roster.
“I already know I’m towards the end, this is Year 11, there’s no denying that,” Nelson said. “A lot of these guys want to play until they’re 40, not me. It’s football there’s the ups and the downs of everything, you have to stay true to yourself, stay the course, continue to work in practice, and again it eventually turns over.”
Whether Nelson is able to help the Raiders turn things around or not, he’s doing all he can to lay the foundation for the future, and you can’t help but admire that.