Wide receiver Jordy Nelson is in his fourth season with the Green Bay Packers, and he’s become one of the team’s top receiving options. Used primarily as a third receiver and kick returner his first three years, Nelson has already topped his career high receiving yards and touchdowns through nine games. He has 34 catches for 633 yards and seven touchdowns — the latter of which is tied for the team lead.
His success may be deceptive to some because of his skin color. In fact, Nelson and some of his teammates believe he benefits from opponents underestimating him because he’s white.
From the Green Bay Press-Gazette:
There’s a joke in the receivers meeting room that Nelson benefits by being the only white receiver on the team because perhaps opposing defensive backs don’t take him seriously.
“Honestly, I think it is (a factor),” Nelson said. “As receivers, we’ve talked about. I know (cornerbacks coach) Joe Whitt tells me all the time, when all the rookies come in, he gives them the heads up, ‘Don’t let him fool ya.’ That’s fine with me.”
Said [Greg] Jennings: “He uses that to his advantage. Don’t put this out there because that’s our secret. But no, seriously, he has taken full advantage of every position that he’s been in whether it be special teams with the kick return game, now being the No. 2 … however you want to put it, he’s taken full advantage of it. It’s not because he didn’t put the time in. It’s not because he’s the white guy. A lot of it has to do with the fact that guys look at him say, ‘OK, yeah, he’s the white guy, he can’t be that good.’ Well, he is that good. He’s proven to be that good, and it’s because of the work and the time that he’s put on not only on the field but in his preparation off the field.”
There is a popular stereotype that suggests white guys aren’t athletic. It was even popularized by the movie White Men Can’t Jump. Toby Gerhart was scrutinized as a white running back, but white receivers are somewhat more common. There are guys like Wes Welker balling for the Patriots, and even one black player wants to emulate him.
If opposing players are sleeping on Jordy Nelson because he’s white, they’ll learn quickly not to. He has moves similar to Carolina’s Steve Smith after the catch. But I think one reason why people may doubt Nelson is not necessarily because of his skin color, but rather because he was only a marginal receiver his first three years. Given the success he’s had since the playoffs last year, it’s time to change our opinions.
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