Jordy Nelson was one of the greatest wide receivers in Green Bay Packers franchise history.
Nelson became one of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets from 2008 to 2018.
During that ten-year time frame, Nelson set several franchise records, became a Pro Bowler, and helped Green Bay win its fourth Super Bowl title.
Nelson’s incredible work ethic on the gridiron stemmed from his humble beginnings in Kansas. Helping out on his family’s farm taught him the value of hard work at an early age.
Surprisingly enough, Jordy Nelson preferred basketball over football. However, he felt the gridiron offered him a better chance of success at the professional level.
Nelson’s switch from defensive back to wide receiver during his college days at Kansas State was a massive turning point in his football career.
Jordy Nelson eventually established himself as one of the best at his position in the Big 12 and National Football League in subsequent years.
Jordy Ray Nelson was born to parents Alan and Kim in Manhattan, KS on May 31, 1985. He has an older brother, Mike, and a younger sister, Kelsey.
Nelson was no stranger to hard work as a youngster. This lesson served him well when he excelled on the gridiron with the Kansas State Wildcats and Green Bay Packers several years later.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings, Nelson’s teammate with the Packers from 2008 to 2012, echoed this sentiment during Nelson’s seventh year in the NFL.
“He’s a hardworking farm boy in his life,” Jennings told SI.com’s Tim Layden in 2014. “He’s a hardworking farm boy on the field.”
Nelson grew up on a farm in Riley County in Northeast Kansas. He was part of the fourth generation of a family with Swedish heritage who worked all day from dusk until late evening.
Farming was also on Nelson’s mother’s side of the family – his maternal grandfather Fred worked as a farmer in Leonardville, KS.
Jordy, his father, and his brother nurtured approximately 200 Black Angus cattle and cultivated more than 1,000 acres for harvest when he was growing up in Kansas.
Their other chores included fixing fences, singling out cattle that were ready for artificial insemination, and cutting shattercane stalks with a corn knife in stifling summer heat.
Nelson described the latter task as “boring” to Layden during his breakout 2014 NFL season.
According to Layden, a 12-year-old Jordy Nelson once drove a tractor pulling a gravity box filled with grain along the freeway’s shoulder at 10 miles per hour.
Nelson could’ve made that tractor eat his dust two years earlier – he clinched the national AAU title in the 400-meter dash when he was just 10 years old. He showed flashes of brilliance on the track in high school some eight years later.
Sports ran in Jordy Nelson’s blood as well – his parents Alan and Kim played recreational softball when he was growing up in Kansas, per PackersNews.com’s Lori Nickel.
Jordy and his siblings played catch on the side and caught home run balls in the outfield while their parents played softball. These experiences inspired him to launch the annual Jordy Nelson Charity Softball Game in Appleton, WI several years later.
Jordy Nelson attended Riley County High School in his home state of Kansas. Since he loved numbers, he considered math his best subject back then.
On the flip side, he hated English and composing papers. He remembered averaging a B in high school, per PackersNews.com.
Nelson drove his first car in high school – a two-door Chevy Monte Carlo. He and his siblings received a monthly allowance for working on their family farm – the only part-time job Jordy Nelson had as a high school student. It helped pay for gas and basketball shoes.
Jordy Nelson never played video games during his high school days – his high school days revolved mainly around farming and playing sports.
“I still don’t have video games in my house,” Nelson told PackersNews.com when he already had kids of his own in 2017. “Never will. I think they can just become addicting.”
Nelson is a Christian who attended church regularly with his family on Sundays. He was part of Riley County High School’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Huddle.
He eventually attended regular team Bible studies with Green Bay Packers team chaplain Troy Murphy and his teammates from 2008 to 2018.
Jordy Nelson excelled in football, basketball, and track for the Riley Falcons.
Nelson was never one to just play one sport – he played multiple sports that corresponded to specific seasons during the year. He played on the gridiron in the fall, the basketball court in the winter, the track in the spring, and the baseball diamond in the summer.
“I never played just one sport year round,” Nelson told Nickel in the spring of 2017. “I would have hated doing that.”
He thought playing just one sport the whole year would’ve diminished his chances of playing in the National Football League someday.
Nelson thought all of the sports he played – basketball, track, and baseball – helped develop him into the football player he became.
Nelson won Class 3A state titles in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, and long jump as a senior in 2003.
Jordy played quarterback while his older brother Mike played running back for the Riley Falcons during their high school days. The former wore No. 15 as a freshman signal caller.
Sometime later, his coach asked him to wear No. 2 instead because it made him appear faster. Jordy obliged and his coach’s premonition actually came true.
At that point, Mike wore No. 1, Jordy wore No. 2, and their sister Kelsey wore No. 3 as a volleyball player at Riley.
When Jordy Nelson was the Falcons’ starting sophomore quarterback, he stood 5’10” and weighed around 130 pounds. He thought having a scrawny build didn’t do him justice at the quarterback position years later.
Jordy Nelson did the next best thing – after finishing their duties on the family farm, he and his brother Mike pumped iron in the weight room every day at 4:30 p.m.
Nelson’s work ethic in the weight room paid enormous dividends. He recorded a 62.0 completion percentage and racked up 2,601 all-purpose yards in his senior campaign.
Despite Jordy Nelson’s decent performance on the high school gridiron, only D-II schools Emporia State and Washburn sent feelers for a college scholarship.
Nelson didn’t want any regrets attending either institution so he committed to Bill Snyder’s Kansas State Wildcats – a program that was located a mere 20 miles southeast of Riley, KS.
After a rough start with the Wildcats two years later, Jordy Nelson found his niche and became one of the best wide receivers in the Big 12 Conference.
College Days With The Kansas State Wildcats
Jordy Nelson attended Kansas State University from 2003 to 2007. He told PackersNews.com in 2017 that he paid for his school tuition fees for two years. He got the money from his allowance doing hard labor on the family farm.
Nelson also sold his ten cows to pay his college fees. By his estimate, each bull sold between $1,500 to $2,000 in the early 2000s.
Nelson started his college football career as a walk-on and redshirted his true freshman season in 2003.
The Wildcats won eleven games and clinched the Big 12 title in the 2003 NCAA campaign. Despite Kansas State’s success, Jordy Nelson struggled as a defensive back. It was an ordeal that lasted for the next two seasons.
According to Layden, the Wildcats envisioned Nelson playing safety the way his predecessor Jon McGraw did. While the two men had identical frames, Nelson himself admitted McGraw was more physical than he was. McGraw went on to play a decade in the NFL for three teams.
Legendary Kansas State Wildcats head football coach Bill Snyder summoned Nelson and wide receiver Marcus Watts into his office before the 2005 NCAA season.
Snyder asked Nelson and Watts to switch positions. After both players consummated the deal, Jordy Nelson’s college football career began to take off.
Nelson had 669 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 45 receptions during his redshirt sophomore campaign in 2005.
Although Jordy Nelson began to emerge as a college wideout, the Wildcats’ fortunes in the final years of Snyder’s first tour of duty as Wildcats’ head football coach took a turn for the worse.
Kansas State won just five games in 2005 – a mere one-game improvement from its dismal four-win season one year earlier.
Nelson regressed in Ron Prince’s first year as Wildcats head football coach in 2006 – the former had 547 receiving yards and one touchdown catch on 39 receptions.
Jordy Nelson ended his college football career with a bang. He exploded for 1,606 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 122 receptions as a redshirt senior in 2007.
Nelson established tremendous chemistry with Wildcats sophomore quarterback Josh Freeman. The latter had 3,353 passing yards and 18 touchdowns in the 2007 NCAA campaign. Freeman signed a five-year, $26 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two years later.
One of Nelson’s memorable moments as a redshirt senior was hauling in a 68-yard touchdown pass from Freeman in October 2007.
It wasn’t merely an ordinary touchdown reception – Kansas Jayhawks and future five-time Pro Bowl defensive back Aqib Talib defended Nelson on that play.
Talib gave credit to Freeman for an exceptional throw. For his part, Nelson turned on the afterburners shortly after Freeman released the pass, per SI.com.
Nelson also proved he wasn’t a one-dimensional wideout. He also had two punt returns for touchdowns and two touchdown passes in his last season in Manhattan, KS.
Although the Wildcats won just five games in 2007, Jordy Nelson had proved he was one of the best wide receivers in college football.
Nelson earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors and became a Consensus All-American wideout following the 2007 NCAA season. He is the only Kansas State wideout to ever earn the latter distinction.
He finished his college football career with 2,822 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns on 206 receptions.
Jordy Nelson took his act to the National Football League in 2008 and became an integral part of a Green Bay Packers juggernaut during the Mike McCarthy era.
Pro Football Career
The Green Bay Packers made Jordy Nelson the 36th overall selection of the 2008 NFL Draft.
When Nelson broke into the pro football ranks, he was a wide receiver for just three years. He absorbed every piece of advice the veteran wideouts gave him like a sponge.
Nelson never wanted the veterans to call him out a second time for something he did wrong on the gridiron. He made sure he understood their message the first time around.
Nelson got off to a slow start in his NFL football career – he had a combined 686 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his first two seasons.
Nonetheless, the end of the 2010 NFL season became Jordy Nelson’s coming-out party.
Nelson, who had 582 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the regular season, helped the Packers win their fourth Super Bowl title in franchise history in his third year in the league.
When veteran wideout Donald Driver broke his ankle in the early goings of Super Bowl XLV, Nelson picked up the slack.
Happy Birthday Jordy Nelson 🎂🎊
Jordy was the definition of a dangerous receiver. Good hands, deep threat, elite route running…
• Super Bowl Champion
• NFL Comeback Player of the Year
— IKE Packers Podcast (@IKE_Packers) May 31, 2020
Behind Nelson’s nine catches for 140 receiving yards and one touchdown reception, the Packers edged out Ben Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25.
Jordy Nelson had earned his first and only Super Bowl ring in his eleven-year pro football career.
His quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, told SI.com that he was their best wide receiver from Super Bowl XLV leading up to the 2014 NFL campaign.
From Rodgers’ viewpoint, Nelson’s impressive performance in the Super Bowl boosted his confidence on the football field.
Since breaking out in Super Bowl XLV, Nelson racked up four 1,000-plus receiving yard seasons in the next five years.
Jordy Nelson enjoyed the finest season of his 11-year pro football career in 2014.
Packers wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett told Layden that Nelson became a legitimate deep threat that year because of his strength, speed, and hand technique.
The latter factor allowed Nelson to burst off the line of scrimmage and create separation between himself and the defensive back guarding him.
Nelson showed everyone why he was a Pro Bowl-worthy quarterback in a game against the Chicago Bears on November 9, 2014.
Jordy Nelson had 152 receiving yards and two touchdowns on six receptions in Green Bay’s 55-14 dismantling of Chicago.
According to the Green Bay Press Gazette’s J.R. Radcliffe, Nelson’s 1,060 receiving yards are the most against any opponent he played against in the National Football League.
Sure enough, Nelson earned Pro Bowl and Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2014. He had 1,519 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 98 receptions that year.
Just six months after making the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster, Nelson tore his ACL in a Week 2 preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Team doctors ruled him out for the entire season.
The bad news didn’t deter Jordy Nelson, though. He came back stronger than ever in the 2016 NFL campaign.
Nelson’s most memorable game that year was the Week 15 showdown against the team he regularly tormented during his eleven-year NFL career – the Chicago Bears.
Nelson hauled in a 60-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers with 30 seconds remaining in regulation. Nelson’s heroics led to Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal and a 30-27 Packers victory.
Green Bay concluded the 2016 NFL season with a six-game winning streak. The Packers finished 10-6 that year and reached the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons. The latter prevailed in blowout fashion, 44-21.
Despite the loss, the Packers received some consolation – Jordy Nelson led the league in receiving touchdowns (14) and won the 2016 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
Nelson made a resounding statement after missing the entire 2015 NFL campaign due to a torn ACL.
The Green Bay Packers released Jordy Nelson on March 13, 2018.
According to the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Tom Silverstein, the Packers released Nelson because they had an opportunity to clear $10.25 million in cap space so they could sign two free agents and offer quarterback Aaron Rodgers a contract extension.
At the time of Nelson’s release, he held Packers franchise records for most catches in a postseason career (54), a single postseason (21), and a postseason game (nine).
Nelson also ranked third in receptions (550), second in touchdown receptions (69), and third in 100-yard receiving games (25) in Packers franchise history.
He is the only Green Bay Packer to ever record three seasons with at least 13 touchdown catches. Nelson and Sterling Sharpe are the only Packers players to record at least 85 receptions in three consecutive seasons, per the team’s official website.
In Nelson’s ten years with the Packers from 2008 to 2018, they averaged nearly eleven wins per year, made the postseason eight times, and won a Super Bowl title in 2010.
Prior to Nelson’s release, he was amenable to taking a pay cut and signing a contract extension with Green Bay. However, he expressed disappointment over the Packers’ front office’s reluctance to work things out.
“I think the hurt part, to be honest, was the unwillingness to try to make it work,” Nelson told ESPN Milwaukee (via the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Aaron Nagler) in the spring of 2018.
Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones, who played with Nelson from 2008 to 2013, told Silverstein the team made a humiliating offer to the disappointed wide receiver.
“I’m not going to say what they offered him, but they really, really low-balled him,” Jones told the Green Bay Press Gazette in March 2018. “It wasn’t even anything you would consider.”
Despite the Packers’ low-ball offer, Nelson still considered it. He also received feelers from the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks after Green Bay released him.
Breaking News: WR Jordy Nelson signs two-year, $15 million deal with Raiders.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) March 15, 2018
Jordy Nelson eventually signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Raiders on March 15, 2018.
Nelson caught 63 passes for three touchdowns from Oakland quarterback Derek Carr in his lone year with the Silver and Black.
The Raiders won just four games in 2018. They missed the postseason for the fifteenth time in the past sixteen years.
Nelson signed a one-day contract with the Green Bay Packers to retire as a member of the organization in the summer of 2019.
Jordy Nelson finished his eleven-year pro football career with 8,587 receiving yards and 72 touchdowns on 613 receptions.
Jordy Nelson and his wife Emily have three children: Royal, Brooks, and Adda.
Since retiring from the National Football League following the 2018 NFL season, Nelson and his family have settled in his old stomping grounds – Riley County, KS.
— Jordy Nelson (@JordyRNelson) September 22, 2020
Nelson told KStateSports.com in September 2021 that he has been helping his father Alan and brother Mike work on a farm in Northern Kansas. It’s a throwback to Jordy Nelson’s childhood when he worked on his family farm. He has officially come full circle.
Nelson had always wanted to return to Kansas and work on the farm after he hung up his cleats. He also loved the idea of his children growing up in Kansas, spending time with their grandparents, and understanding the rudiments of farming.
“Farming teaches the core values of hard work, taking pride in what you do, taking responsibility in what you do, and a little bit of teamwork as well,” Nelson told Kansas State’s official athletics website in 2021.
Jordy Nelson has also dabbled in coaching since he returned to his home state of Kansas. He coached his son Royal’s basketball team, and he also coached his kids’ baseball teams in the summer of 2021.
Nelson’s biggest reward from coaching comes from seeing his kids grasping the fundamentals of their respective sports and improving with each passing week.
Nelson became a member of the K-State Hall of Fame in the fall of 2021. He’s also a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame.
He will hold his second annual Jordy Nelson Legends Classic Softball Game featuring past Kansas State Wildcats legends at Tointon Family Stadium on September 11, 2022.
— Jordy Nelson (@JordyRNelson) July 14, 2019
Jordy Nelson is also an avid golfer.