Penn State senior tackle Andrew Nelson remembered a Bill O’Brien proverb as he prepped for his first action in 336 days.
“He used to say, ‘Don’t dip your toe in the water,’” Nelson said with a smile.
On Saturday, Sept. 9, Nelson tried to abide by those words.
The Hershey High School graduate, who suffered a significant knee injury against Maryland on Oct. 8, 2016, and missed the final eight games of last season, didn’t play in the 2017 season opener against Akron. But the day after Penn State’s 52-0 win over the Zips, Penn State offensive line coach Matt Limegrover asked Nelson how he was feeling. The senior had a straight-forward answer.
“I said, ‘Coach, I want to get back out there,’” Nelson recalled.
He did just that, playing four series while alternating with starting right tackle Chasz Wright. Nelson’s first series was a six-play, 62-yard drive that ended on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mike Gesicki, putting the Nittany Lions up 14-0.
“To be a part of a drive again, drive down the field and put it in the end zone was special,” the senior said. “That’s when I was like, man, I miss this.”
Finally contributing meant a lot to Nelson. The 6-foot-6, 305-pounder said he had fun, “something you lose sight of when you’re playing every single down for three straight years.”
Put simply, Nelson was just excited to play football again.
But he knew he couldn’t go at it half-heartedly or take things slow. He had to heed O’Brien’s advice.
“I was trying not to hesitate, not to wonder how I’m going to do,” Nelson said. “Just go out there and play every play like it’s my last. And, fortunately or unfortunately through my seasons, I know what that’s like, that any play could be your last that season. So my plan was just go out, have fun, enjoy it and play every play like it could be my last.”