Two years ago, on December 12, 2012 (12/12/12), Steven Nelson committed to Oregon State University to play corner with the Beavers.
Nelson said this to Brad Hoiseth of the Rivals Network:
“I felt like it was the best fit for me,” Nelson said. “Rod Perry is a great coach and I feel like he can prepare me for the next level.”
The more I read about Steven the more I realized his mission was the NFL. No matter what school he went to, be it his initial pick of Georgia to his eventual home of Oregon State, he was viewing them as tools to reach this goal. He wanted the best coach he could find to help him in this quest and that was Rod Perry. That is not to say that Steven is not a great teammate or a true Beaver, it just means that he was not going to be wooed by ‘bling’ or facilities, by location or by perks. At least that was my impression of him, and I respected him for that. Many young men looking at schools are not as focused as Steven appeared to be.
Of course this is all just a few thoughts from a few words reported on an online recruiting site. I don’t know Steven, nor could I pick him out of a crowd unless he was in his uniform. So it was mostly just a gut feeling.
In August of 2013, i went to some practices to see what I thought about the team. I remember constantly seeing this guy, Nelson, fighting like crazy every time he went against anyone. I saw him push, shove, scratch and claw to keep the ball from staying a completion. He was visibly determined and constantly working to get better. I was very impressed with him and wondered how he would do in 2013.
He did very well. His six interceptions were tied for the third most in the country and he improved as the season went on in run support and in his ability to close off a section of the field. If you watch the way the season went, Nelson was picked on early in the season because Reynolds was a risky option to throw against. As the season went on, more and more passes were going at Reynolds side because Nelson was picking off passes and making plays. While many worry about his coverage and run stopping, Steven did very well last year, especially as opposing quarterbacks had a lot of time to make the throws they wanted.
So while I was impressed with Nelson as a signee, impressed with his approach to practice and impressed with him on the field. Judging by his comments to the media and on Twitter, Steven felt he still had a lot to work on and a lot to do.
Between daily reminders of the work he is doing, of his ‘Rise and grind’ and his thankfulness for the day, Steven also tweets items like:
“Wise man told me to keep everything out of your life that is a potential danger to your path God set for you”
Watching Nelson this spring at practice, he was tenacious, hands constantly moving and punching to keep receivers from being able to get a hold of him. Fighting for balls after the catch to turn a sure completion to a drop or, if need be, a fumble. He was vocal, active and worked with the other corners. Mostly, he was one of the guys that stood out to me after every practice as a guy who made the most of his reps.
If the defensive line is improved, as I feel it will be, and if the linebackers are as good as we hope, Nelson could be one of the key pieces of Oregon State returning to the more defensively dominant squads in recent memory like the 2007 and 2012 teams. Until the ball is snapped and the team takes the field, there is no way to guess what it will be like. The Jeckyl and Hyde nature of OSU’s defense since 2010 has shown that there can be seismic shifts in defensive proficiency, but if I am going to look for a cornerstone for the defensive turnaround, then I am looking for someone with a work ethic and attitude like Steven Nelson.
I just wish he could have come to Oregon State sooner.