This week’s unsung hero is second year player and special teams standout, Corey Nelson.
Let’s take a look at the second year Bronco.
Name: Corey Nelson
Size: 6’1, 226 lbs
7th round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos
2015 Stats: 8 tackles, 1 sack
Career Stats: 25 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass deflection
The Story: Nelson’s story resembles a lot of the other unsung heroes I’ve covered. A late round pick with little
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos linebacker Corey Nelson (52) against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
invested in his development, Nelson faced an uphill climb to make it to NFL relevance. A standout defensive player at the University of Oklahoma, Nelson’s draft stock plunged after a pectoral injury ended his senior season after five games.
To sustain a season ending injury is bad enough, but considering that it occurred during his senior season, that had to be a huge blow to his personal and professional confidence.
Like many injured prospects, his draft stock came into question after the injury. Despite his athleticism and flashes of playmaking ability from his college tape, questions about his recovery became the prominent point of focus during his draft process.
He ultimately ended up being the 7th round pick(242 overall) to the Broncos in the 2014 NFL Draft. The coaching staff and front office were said to be interested in Nelson’s athleticism and thought he would be a nice developmental prospect.
Aside from getting back to 100% health, Nelson also faced a stiff challenge from another young linebacker. In the same draft in which Nelson was taken, the Broncos also selected Lamin Barrow in the 5th round. Barrow was a productive player and team captain at LSU, which led many with the Broncos to believe that he could eventually develop into one of their starting linebackers.
If that wasn’t enough, he also faced competition from veteran linebackers Danny Trevathan, Brandon Marshall and Steven Johnson. Despite the daunting challenge, Nelson was able to secure a roster spot and ended up playing in all 16 games of his rookie season.
He made an immediate impression on special teams, recording 4 tackles to go along with 13 tackles in the defensive rotation. After completing his first off-season as a pro, Nelson came into camp at 100% and ready to play at his full potential. His play earned him a roster spot for the 2nd straight year, beating out fellow draft mate Lamin Barrow in the process. He continues to make plays on special teams and occasionally on defense. Despite the part time contritubtion through his first two seasons, the challenge for Nelson, which may continue throughout his entire career, may be the depth that’s ahead of him.
Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall have emerged as one of the better inside linebacking duos in the NFL. Not only are they able to play three downs, but they’re both playing at a pro bowl caliber level this season. To add insult to injury, Nelson is also competing for playing time with fellow second year player Todd Davis. Davis was signed to the active roster mid-way through the 2014 season and ended up starting a few games to close out that season. He’s a player that has shown potential to be a starting linebacker on a full-time basis and continues to be a heavy player on special teams. Simply put, Nelson’s problem isn’t a lack of talent, it’s more about the great players that share the same position as him.
Regardless of whether or not Nelson makes a big time impact every week on the gridiron, his presence is strong with the team on and off the field. Because of his dedication to off-field charities and appearances, he was named the Broncos community rookie of the year in 2014. This was the first award of its kind. It’s important to remember that these players also inherit a responsibility to be role models and upstanding citizens to the people in their community.
It makes it easier for a fanbase to support its players if they know that they’re making a positive change on and off the field in their community. Nelson has definitely proven that in his brief time in the NFL.