BY CHANCE WEEKS-WILLIAMS
Most kids playing football at a young age dreamed of playing in the National Football League. However, Mike Nelson didn’t always have that dream.
Coming in as a wide-eyed freshman, Nelson said he developed in a big way as a person and as a player. At Central, he liked that he was given the opportunity to have a summer break and time to get away from everything, including football.
“Football didn’t run my life,” Nelson said. “I definitely had a busy schedule and made a lot of sacrifices, but not at the level of a bigger program.”
Nelson joins many other Wildcats that have had an opportunity to play football at the next level, like Jon Kitna and most recently Adam Bighill, who plays with the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League.
It had not occurred to Nelson that one day he could be among the ranks of the NFL, although he turned in an impressive resume while at Central.
“I thought about it, but I wasn’t banking on it or thinking about it all the time necessarily,” Nelson said.
Nelson got a call from his agent on Sunday, May 11. He was told that the Raiders had offered him a tryout opportunity at their rookie camp.
“This is what I had been working for, for the past five months ever since the season was over,” Nelson said. “I’m not working to play for Central football, I was working for an opportunity to step on the field and see what professional football was all about.”
The process of getting a tryout was busy for Nelson, having to compete in two pro days within a week of each other. Nelson worked out at Eastern Washington University as well as Central, but did not run a 40-yard dash at the first one because he was nursing a pulled hamstring that he had suffered four weeks prior.
“I’m really glad to have worked my butt off,” Nelson said.
Nelson was excited to get the opportunity to go down and try out. However, he came to the conclusion that the professional football lifestyle wasn’t for him.
“My time down there kind of opened my eyes a little bit and provided some closure,” Nelson said. “I wasn’t into it as I thought I would be and I kind of think that I’m not in love with it enough or passionate about it enough to continue playing at that level.”
Entering this past season, Nelson was considered one of the premier professional prospects at the Division II level. During his time as a Wildcat he played four consecutive seasons after redshirting in 2009. He started all 43 games during his tenure at right tackle where he was a force for the Wildcats.
Nelson was a part of two Central teams that won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Nelson cherished that experience as some of his favorite moments at Central.
“I’m thankful for my time at Central,” Nelson said. “In hindsight it’s been such an awesome experience. It’s done a lot for me throughout all aspects of my life and bettered me for real life situations.”
He also made the GNAC first-team every year he played. Before the 2013 season, Nelson was voted a preseason first team All-American by both D2football.com and the Collegiate Development Football League. Nelson is also among four players in GNAC history to be a first team all GNAC member for four consecutive years.
Growing up, Nelson played a variety of sports including basketball and soccer until the seventh grade, when he started playing football. Nelson credits his older sister’s friends who took him under their wing and mentored him.
“They showed me what the weight room was like, showed me how to lift and take pride in what you do,” Nelson said. “I was thankful to have those guys to show me what it was about.”
Nelson graduated from Mount Si High School in 2009 and more recently earned his degree in Construction Management.