By Rich Chrampanis
An offensive lineman is supposed to be an anonymous soldier on the front lines of the battles on the gridiron. The only kind of air time a lineman usually gets on television is for a miscue like a holding penalty. But former RBC Casey and Indianapolis Colt guard Quenton Nelson has made such a profound impact on the entire National Football League that rabid football fans devour social media highlights of Nelson absolutely dominating at his position.
Yes, it’s true. You can go on Twitter and Instagram and find countless clips of the 6-foot-5, 330 pound lineman steamrolling a who’s who of NFL veteran defensive players. This isn’t a Cinderella story; Nelson was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and the league had high expectations of the Notre Dame All-American as a player who could develop into one of the very best at his position.
Often times, there’s a steep learning curve in the transition from college to the pros. But Quenton Nelson was able to make an immediate impact and not only meet the hype that comes with being a high draft pick, but exceed expectations.
Nelson picked up the two highest individual honors in the NFL as he was named to the AFC Pro Bowl Team and selected as a first team All-Pro, making him widely considered one of the two best offensive guards in the entire league. Nelson and fellow rookie teammate Darius Leonard, who is an All- Pro linebacker, are the first rookie duo to make All-Pro status since the legendary Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears all the way back in 1965.
While it’s easy to quantify the impact of offensive skill players and defensive players with statistics, there are some numbers that can quantify Nelson’s impact. In 2017, the Indianapolis Colts ranked last in the NFL giving up 56 sacks. One year later, that number shrank to 18, and while Nelson would be the first to point out that the entire offensive line needs to be credited for that improvement, there’s no question his presence played a big role in the dramatic turnaround.
From Week 5 through 12, Andrew Luck was not sacked, throwing 239 passes in that span. And when it comes to durability, you can’t do any better than what No. 56 did in his NFL debut. Quenton Nelson played all 1,136 snaps on offense for Indy. The only thing Nelson and the Colts didn’t accomplish was reaching the Super Bowl.
Instead, Nelson will head to Orlando Jan. 27 for his first of what should be many trips to the Pro Bowl. And here’s the scary thing for opposing NFL defenses: Nelson is only going to get better.
“It was a memorable rookie season and I enjoyed it through the lows of starting 1-5 to the highs of finishing 10-2,” Nelson said on his Instagram account following his rookie season. “I’m looking forward to this off-season and becoming a better athlete and player. We’ll be back Colts fans, thank you for your support.”
Just six short years ago, people around Red Bank knew Quenton Nelson was going to be a special player. Now everyone in the football universe knows about the All-Pro offensive lineman who’s just at the beginning of what should be an incredible pro football journey.
This article was first published in the Feb.7-14, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.
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