Colts’ Quenton Nelson shaped by brotherly conflict

Quenton Nelson (center) with Colts GM Chris Ballard (left) and head coach Frank Reich (right) on April 27, 2018.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Quenton Nelson’s nasty disposition on the football field is homegrown, and complements of older brother Connor.

“It was instilled in me from a young age,’’ he said. “Got picked on by my brother a lot.’’

That’s what older brothers in an ultra-competitive family do, and Connor, 6 years older than Quenton, took full advantage.

“Just roughhousing,’’ Connor insisted Friday as the Indianapolis Colts introduced Quenton as their first-round pick in the NFL draft.

The brother-on-brother horseplay was part of their daily life, until it wasn’t.

Connor was an accomplished player in his own right who would play linebacker at Villanova. When he and a friend returned to the Nelson household in Homedale, N.J. for Easter break one year, Connor and Quenton renewed their sibling rivalry.

“We got into it,’’ Connor said, smiling. “My dad (Craig) wasn’t around and one of my friends from Villanova had come back and was staying Easter break with us because he was from California.

“My mom (Maryellen) was just screaming, ‘I don’t know what to do. Break it up! Break it up! I can’t break it up!’’

The friend had to step in and separate the rambunctious brothers.

“It was pretty even right then,’’ Connor insisted, “but he was 14 and just as big as me.

“We never really got into another fight after that. It was like, ‘Great to see you, bro.’’’

That’s the making of the legend of Quenton Nelson, and there’s video to back it up. Again, complements of older brother Connor, who pieced together Quenton’s 2017 highlight video available on YouTube.

“I had a great time making it for him,’’ Connor said. “I was like, ‘Man, he’s really racking up the pancakes.’’

The video includes the 6-5, 330-pound Quenton:

  • Body-slamming an LSU linebacker, WWE-style.
    “Yeah, he kind of slowed down and I slammed him,’’ he said. “It felt pretty good, I’m not going to lie.’’
  • Pulling to his right on a goal-line play and driving an LSU defensive back into the end zone and onto his back.
  • Absolutely pancaking a Michigan State defensive tackle.
  • Setting up in pass protection to the left of the formation against Georgia and, after having no one to block, noticing a DB on a free-bllitz from the right. He adeptly peeled back and stoned the DB.

Connor smiled when asked about his brother’s penchant for dominating opponents.

“It feels really good to put someone on their ass,’’ he said. “He plays to the whistle. He gets a lot of pancakes.’’

Quenton always was bigger than most. He followed his brother’s footsteps in the local Pop Warner league, and each coached by dad. When Connor was in Pop Warner, Quenton, again 6 years younger, would show up, pull on the pads and run plays with the scout team.

When Quenton was old enough to participate, he had to play against kids two grades ahead of him because participation was determined by the player’s weight.

“He was always big,’’ Connor said. “He had to actually lose like 20 pounds each year to play with guys two grades up.’’

Gradually, Quenton grew into a consensus All-American at Notre Dame and a first-round NFL draft pick. Credit that relentless approach and nasty disposition.

Quenton noted his father “always told me to finish your blocks through the echo of the whistle.’’

He basically is a two-faced individual.

“Yeah. In life, I’m a really nice person and when I get on the football field it’s time to flip the switch and do my job to the best of my ability to help the team win,’’ Quenton said.

Many analysts had Nelson as the best player in the draft, regardless of position. Colts general manager Chris Ballard made it clear he was one of the top three non-quarterback prospects, along with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and N.C. State pass rusher Bradley Chubb.

“He’s good both as a run blocker and pass-pro,’’ Ballard said. “He’s nasty. He’s tough. He’s everything we want to stand for as a team. His football character is off the charts, and that’s something that we want to keep adding.’’

Added coach Frank Reich: “Instinctive. I mean, not only big and tough and strong and has all the football character, but when we started talking, we want guys who are instinctive football players that process it quickly and find ways to be playmakers.

“We think playmakers on the edge. We talk about playmakers up front as well, and this guy’s in that category.’’