Quenton Nelson’s mission is simple.
“As a blocker my mindset is being dominant,” he said at the Combine last month. ”I want to dominate all my opponents and take their will away to play the game by each play and finishing them past the whistle.
“Yeah,” he added, “I would consider myself a nasty player.”
And now he’s a Colt, selected with the sixth pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night. Nelson was the undisputed best offensive lineman in this year’s class, but there were some who even considered him the best player overall. That includes quarterbacks and running backs and edge rushers.
What he’ll provide for the Colts is an instant dose of surliness and physicality.
“He has a nasty demeanor,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He finishes with an edge. He’s probably the best run-blocking interior offensive lineman I’ve seen in years. Plus, in today’s NFL, you have to protect your quarterback. Every quarterback I’ve talked to in the NFL says what bothers them the most is immediate pressure up the middle. So you have a guy who can set a physical edge in the middle of your lineup front and allow your quarterback to step up. That’s a big deal.”
Former Giants center Shaun O’Hara, now an analyst for NFL Network, said that Nelson is a throwback to when offensive linemen were gritty maulers and would have fit into any era of play.
“He’s a true O-lineman,” O’Hara said. “He wants to impose his will, and that shows up on film. The guy looks for work. He wants to suffocate the guy he’s trying to block. He just wants to completely eliminate him. I love that . . . The way that he plays with brute force is fun to watch. He’s not a glitz and glamour guy. Quenton is: Just tell me when it’s my turn to kick [expletive].”
So where does that nastiness come from?
New Jersey, naturally.
Growing up in Holmdel, N.J., and attending Red Bank Catholic before going to Notre Dame, he was the youngest of six in a family that loved to compete and had little patience for pandering to the baby in the family. How tough were the Nelsons? His father, Craig Nelson, once told a story about a family basketball game that ended with his wife, Maryellen, taking a charge and breaking her wrist.
“We were arguing all the way to the hospital about whether her feet were still moving or not,” Craig Nelson told the South Bend Tribune last year.
Even when all the Nelsons got together, it was pick on Quenton time. He is not only the youngest in his immediate family but the youngest of 39 siblings and cousins.
“I would say the nastiness probably comes from being the youngest and getting picked on a lot,” he said. “I had a lot of frustration to take out on the football field. So, yeah, I want to play nasty. I play clean, though.”
To a point.
“I think,” he said, “it’s better to have too much aggression than too little.”
Now the Colts have all of it.