Jordy Nelson has had the same haircut since he was in 4th grade. It’s true. His tight-on-the-sides buzz cut has been his preferred look for a long time, and he’s so particular about it he even signed a deal with Wahl hair clippers so he can cut his own hair every two weeks no matter where he is.
That is the model of consistency, much like Nelson’s role as Aaron Rodgers’ biggest offensive weapon. Nelson had a career year in 2014, racking up 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is one of the NFL’s most potent deep threats, routinely beating cornerbacks for touchdowns of 60 yards or more.
Yet Nelson’s season ended in disappointment when the Packers blew a 19-7 lead with just 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks in their NFC Championship matchup. After Seattle scored to close within 19-14, Green Bay botched an onside kick, and the Seahawks scored again to go up 22-19, eventually winning in overtime. Nelson is still working to get over the loss and missing out on playing in the Super Bowl, but he’s also been hard at work this off-season to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
STACK: First things first. Have you been able to put that tough playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks behind you, or does it still haunt you a little bit?
Jordy Nelson: It comes and goes. There’s obviously nothing we can do to change what happened at the end of last year. It will always be a part of us because we experienced it. It was a great opportunity we had in front of us and one that we let get away. We won’t ever get the opportunity back. So that’s the biggest part that will always be a part of us for the rest of our lives.
But I think as an athlete, you learn to deal with a loss and learn to move forward. I don’t think you’ll ever forget it but you’ve got to be able to move on. I think it didn’t take me too long, especially because I have a 5-year-old boy and a 4-month-old boy now, who kind of occupy my mind and my time in the off-season.
It’s great to get back to a normal life. One of the best things about having kids is when you come from work or a game they really bring you back to reality.
So, your off-season. Do you have a specific plan that you follow each year? Or does it vary?
I do somewhat have a routine. There’s little things I’ll go into OTAs and training camp wanting to work on. Being more patient with my releases at the line and using my hands better. Maximizing every movement and trying to get rid of that wasted movement and wasted steps. Continue to develop different ways to run certain routes. Continue to hone in on our playbook and understand it to the fullest. Not just the plays but how Aaron [Rodgers] reads it, where’s he at in the progression and what Aaron might be thinking versus certain coverages. The more film that’s out there on you, the harder it’s going to be each game and each year. You’ve got to continue to change and mix things up.
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Are there any specific drills you do to perfect your route running and footwork?
Yeah, going through a ladder drill. We do a lot of cone drills, bursting in and out of the cones and around the cones. It simulates route running. A lot of people don’t understand, but a lot of players drop their arms when they’re coming in and out of routes. First of all, it’s a sign to the DB that you’re getting ready to break down, and you lose the momentum and power in your arms when you’re running and turning. Doing little things like that.
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What about stuff in the weight room? Have you ever had to dramatically gain or lose weight for a season or have you remained relatively the same?
If anything, I’ve dropped a few pounds, especially throughout the season. I’ve been able to get down to 210. [Note: NFL.com listed Nelson at 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds for the 2014 season.] It allows me to maintain my speed and energy and quickness throughout the season.
Sometimes it’s hard throughout the season. You slowly actually add weight because you get a little more tired so you’re not doing as much in practice, you’re not doing as much in the weight room. But I really try to maintain that and slowly drop some weight and make sure the body is feeling good. Sometimes when you drop weight, you can get tired and worn out because you aren’t eating as much. The last couple years, I’ve felt really good and I think it’s made a difference the last half of the season.
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You and Aaron are known for the deep ball. You two probably connect more than anyone in the league on that play. Are deep routes still your favorite? Or at this point in your career, do you enjoy mixing it up?
A little bit of both. Any receiver will always take the deep ball. Those are some of the prettiest plays out there, when a quarterback can place the ball on the outside shoulder and everything works smoothly. But there’s routes in your playbook that are a little bit more fun to run—if it’s a double move or a shallow cross route, just trying to mix it up. Aaron and I are constantly working. We are trying to stay ahead of the defense and tweaking a play here and there against a certain defense.
As a wide receiver, was it cool for you to see so many of them dominate the first round of the NFL Draft?
Absolutely. I watch a lot of college football, I’ve watched Amari Cooper for Alabama since they’re on TV a lot. The main thing about those guys is how explosive they are. I think you saw it last year with Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. It’s the big-play ability and being able to be explosive and run after the catch. A lot of these offenses have gotten to the point where they want to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands to protect him and get it to the wide receivers and have them go make a play. It will be interesting to see if they can make the same kind of impact [as the rookies last year].