KRAVITZ: He's quiet, ornery and dominant: You're going to like this Quenton Nelson guy

Published:
Updated:
Bob Kravitz

WESTFIELD — There are very few eye-opening moments in a football training camp. There are flashes of talent, as we've seen from some of the youngest Colts, but for the most part, it's all drill drudgery, players going through the paces in advance of the 2018-19 football season.

Until you move over to the middle field at the Grand Park facility, as we did Saturday afternoon, where defensive linemen were engaging in one-on-one pass-rush drills with individual offensive linemen.

That's where Quenton Nelson, the sixth player selected in the draft, was holding a master class in offensive-line play. While D-linemen typically get a few steps into the backfield before they become engaged with the tackle, guard or center, there's something very different, and eye-opening, when the pass rushers come up against Nelson. At that point, they take an initial step and …STOP. I mean, stop dead – none shall pass -- reduced to wrestling in order to escape Nelson's clutches. He is a wall with feet. He is Velcro Man; defensive players stick to him and don't extricate themselves until long after the whistle sounds.

First, Nelson sent Rakeem Nunez-Roches falling backwards. He stuffed Caraun Reid. He made quick and dirty work of Hassan Ridgeway. These are all 300-plus-pounders. Granted, none of them will make you forget Aaron Donald, but these are professional football players and Nelson, the rookie, made them look silly while making GM Chris Ballard look smart, really smart.

Now, how will he perform when the lights come on and elite defensive players are twisting and stunting and testing his mind as well as his body? We don't know for sure yet. But we have a pretty good idea. The kid has all the physical tools and several more left over. As Ballard said on draft night, you can not only see Nelson when he plays, you can feel him. He is a force of nature, a player who projects as a Pro Bowl quality guard for years to come.

"He's a beast,'' said Colts Offensive Coordinator Nick Sirianni. "Yeah, he's a beast. He's strong, he's physical. He's a big man and for being as big of a man that he is … He has great athleticism to change directions and just (has) a nasty mean streak that we love.''

"At guard, you want one of those people that if he's walking down the street and someone comes and runs at him at full speed, that person is going to get knocked out even though he didn't know it was coming," left tackle Antony Castonzo said. "He's got that ability that when people run into him, they move and he doesn't. He takes up space and it's really good to know that he's not going to be stepping on anyone's feet because when his feet are in the ground, he moves people, they don't move him. That's what's impressed me the most. I had a coach one time who called it his ballast. He's definitely a fridge.''

There's still a mystery with Nelson, though.

Like: Who is he? What makes him tick? What's he all about?

I've been coming to Colts' camp for 18 years now, have spoken to rookies of all stripes and personalities, and Nelson already rates as the least talkative, least expansive, least revealing young player I've ever come across. That's not a criticism; for one thing, I'm not going to criticize someone whose back is big enough, you can show a full-length movie on it. Everybody is different, and this is not completely unusual for rookies who believe they are better seen rather than heard. Over time, he might become more familiar and comfortable with the media and may ever share what's in his cranium. I can remember how shy Joseph Addai was in his early years with the Colts. Shoot, Marvin Harrison never became a quote machine, and he was in the league for more than a decade. It doesn't make for terribly good copy, but there's a quiet nobility about it, especially in an age of self-promotion.

For a hint, I turned to the Colts' media guide, where they asked Nelson, and all the players, a few questions so that media types might know them better:

Nelson on his guilty pleasure: "Eating.''

Oh.

Clearly, Nelson is not a guy a reporter can go to in order to learn about Nelson, so I reached out to some of his teammates and coaches, who swore there's more to the first-round draft choice than meets the eye. A little, anyway.

I mean, it's not like he's going to break out into song or anything...

Wait…

That's exactly what he did Sunday morning when the Colts' Nelson, who still has to do rookie things, knocked out Uncle Kracker's "Follow Me'' in front of his enthralled teammates.

"Did one of the better jobs I've seen from a rookie,'' veteran John Simon said. "I was surprised.''

Head coach Frank Reich was asked if he's had any lengthy conversations with his first-round draft choice.

"No, I haven't,'' he said, laughing. "I really haven’t. Although he did approach me in the hallway Saturday, and I was a little shocked because it was the first day in pads and I won’t get into the details of what he was saying exactly, but let’s just say he was excited to be in pads and was encouraging me to call runs and a particular run that he could block in a certain way so that kind of got me fired up. Then on the field, I think all our guys are making progress, but he turned a few heads..,I think everybody saw it. He’s just really strong, but also, it’s the total package. It’s being strong, it’s having good feet and then it’s having that demeanor.''

It seems that Nelson amuses his teammates, at least teammate Jack Mewhort, at the dinner table, and lunch, and breakfast.

"He's got this thing where every meal he finds a way to make it a sandwich; guy loves sandwiches,'' Mewhort said. "It's a little thing, but it's hilarious. It could be mashed potatoes and chicken breast and he'll find some way to fashion it into a sandwich.''

OK, so Nelson might not get the call for next year's Celebrity Standup, but here's a possibility, too: This may be all he chooses to reveal to the media. Behind the scenes, he may bes a lot more willing to share his thoughts. He might be downright chatty, for all we know. Might be a class clown, a guy who channels his inner Robin Williams. That's a mistake journalists sometimes make: We think we know these guys, when the truth is, we don't know squat.

"He's a funny guy,'' Mewhort said. "He has a very dry sense of humor, very good comedic timing.''

On behalf of the local media, Jack, we'll just have to take your word for it.

Want more Kravitz? Subscribe to The Bob Kravitz Podcast on iTunes,Google Play, Stitcher or TuneIn. If you have a good story idea that's worth writing, feel free to send it to bkravitz@wthr.com.