Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson selected by Indianapolis Colts with sixth pick in NFL Draft

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Ten years before Roger Goodell strode to the front of a massive stage, leaned into a microphone and spoke his dream into existence, Quenton Nelson ran the cross-country courses in a park near his home.

Every day, every summer, for years and years and years.

Back then, Nelson — now an unstoppable 6-foot-5, 325-pound asteroid hurtling towards Earth — was tasked with losing 20 pounds every summer just to be eligible to play Pop Warner football with kids two or three years older. So he ran, he dieted, he demolished — and then, the next summer, the cycle started again.

That single-minded determination, combined with some undeniable physical gifts, created a Rivals five-star prospect. It carried Nelson all the way from Holmdel, N.J., to Notre Dame. It allowed him to start 36 career games in South Bend and landed him unanimous All-American honors in 2017.

He ran those cross-country courses, and on Thursday, Goodell walked the stage.

“With the sixth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts select Quenton Nelson, guard, Notre Dame,” the NFL commissioner said.

The 2017 Outland Trophy finalist watched at his parents’ house in Syracuse, Ind., roughly 40 miles southeast of South Bend. He was surrounded by family, close friends and his fellow Notre Dame offensive linemen — including graduate student center Sam Mustipher, who he has played alongside for each of the last two seasons.

“I’ve watched this guy for five years mold his game into something all linemen should strive to attain,” Mustipher wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday. “Most of you were lucky to see him perform at the highest levels on Saturdays. I got to be with him trudging through the snow on the way to the Gug, watching him fine tune every detail of his game down to the most minute details, studying countless hours of film of himself and other greats, and seeing his desire and passion to be the absolute best in everything that he does.

“I’ll miss destroying you in 2k (video games) and eating wings and Krispy Kreme but I’m more excited to see what unfolds next in your career.”

So is Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich. On Thursday night, Nelson became the first offensive guard to be selected in the top 10 of the NFL Draft since North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper (No. 7 overall to Arizona) and Alabama’s Chance Warmack (No. 10 to Tennessee) in 2013. The last guard taken in the top five was Bill Fralic, who the Atlanta Falcons took second in 1985.

Nelson and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey — who was selected ninth overall by the San Francisco 49ers — are the first two Notre Dame offensive linemen to be taken in the top 10 of the same draft. He's the highest-drafted Irish player since offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley went sixth to the Baltimore Ravens in 2016.

When it comes to offensive linemen, tackles are the priority. So what makes Nelson worthy of the pick?

“He comes in (as a freshman in 2014). He’s the biggest kid, as strong as everybody else in the weight room and has the mentality on the field to just maul people,” McGlinchey said last season.

“When you have that and the desire that he has to be as great as he wants to be, the sky is the limit for him. He studies football like nobody else. He prepares just as hard as anybody else, and he’s gifted in more ways than anybody can imagine.”

On film, the physical gifts are obvious, yielding more one-sided collisions than a monster truck rally.

Away from it, though, Nelson — a 2017 Irish captain — continues to impress with two less visible traits:

Intellect, and attitude.

“He takes what he does very seriously,” said former Notre Dame offensive lineman Mark Harrell. “When you look at Q, you think he’s just going to be a brawler and that his ability is just what’s going to take him far. But he’s a student of the game, too.”

Added Tony Balzofiore, Nelson’s Pop Warner coach and a family friend: “We call it ‘the nasty.’ You have to start to change. And when he put that helmet on, by his junior year (in high school), forget it. When he pulled, it was all over with. You better not be in his way. You were done.”

Now, Nelson’s bringing “the nasty” 150 miles south to Indianapolis. That’s bad news for whoever’s tasked with standing in his way.

“I try to bring a physical demeanor to every game, punish my guy that I have to block and just do my job and do what I was taught to do by coach (former Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry) Hiestand,” Nelson said in November. “I take a lot of pride in that.”

To the two guys @mmcglinch68@BigQ56 who I had the opportunity of going against everyday in practice, congrats!☘️

— Myron Tagovailoa (@myraaann) April 27, 2018

Notre Dame yet again producing incredible talent in the NFL Draft. Two Notre Dame players taken in the Top 10!! LETS GO!!!! ☘️☘️☘️

— Scott Daly (@sdaly61) April 27, 2018

Congratulations @mmcglinch68 and to your family. Awesome night!#GoIrish

— Jeff Quinn (@CoachJeffQuinn) April 27, 2018

Top two lineman off the board. Top 10 #MAULCOPS

— Tommy Kraemer (@Big_TK78) April 27, 2018

2 Top 10

— 2_JUICE (@DexterW_22) April 27, 2018


— Andrew Kristofic (@AKristofic21) April 27, 2018

Notre Dame offensive guard Quenton Nelson (right) was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.