Pirates offer new life to Philip Nelson

Philip Nelson, who was dismissed from Rutgers last season will try to walk on to ECU's team this season. IES spoke with players and coaches about Nelson's impact on the team.

East Carolina has given a second chance to 6-foot-2, 220-pound quarterback Philip Nelson.

The former Minnesota’s Mr. Football in high school began his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota before transferring to Rutgers where he was dismissed from the team in May of 2014 after being arrested on felony assault charges.

Nelson would plead guilty to a charge of a misdemeanor fifth-degree assault charge and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service for his role in a fight that ended with permanent damage for former Minnesota State Mankato player Isaac Kolstad, who was diagnosed with severe brain injuries.

"I think it's human nature and fair to question decisions such as these, but there was a lot of forethought and deliberation about our willingness to allow Phil to join our program as a walk-on,” said East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill.

“He did not make a good decision," McNeill said, "but he has taken responsibility. It is my belief the support and leadership core of our football program can help enable him to become the man we know he can be.”

After joining the Pirates as a walk on Nelson now awaits the ruling of if he will be eligible to take the field this fall.

“That’s really with our compliance office more than anything,” Offensive Coordinator Dave Nichol. “As of now I have to go as if he’s not because it would be dumb to rep him all this time and then he can’t play so were just waiting to here.”

Nichol noted that Nelson has a strong arm and has the ability to stay in the pocket and throw or take off and run.

“I haven’t been around him a lot yet but he seems like a good kid and so far he’s been really sharp, done everything we have asked him to do,” said Nichol.

The dual-threat quarterback has already been accepted into the locker room by his new teammates at ECU.

“We welcome everyone with open arms, once coach Ruff lets them in then they’re family,” said senior running back Chris Hairston. “They have to get past the boss man first but once he lets them in it’s all open arms. But he’s being doing good, just taking one practice at time.” Nelson is rooming with the Pirates top returning receiver, junior Isaiah Jones throughout the fall camp practice’s.

“Phil is a fun guy, he’s really cool and laid back,” Jones said. “He’s just a good guy very hardworking and you can tell he is really dedicated already, you can just tell he’s already buying into the system. I’m excited to see just how well he progresses.”

With a possible starting quarterback position on the line, being a teammate came before competitor for sophomore quarterback Kurt Benkert.

“He’s a really cool guy, he’s fun to hang out with and he’s really glad to be here,” explained Benkert. “He does good job throwing the ball and he works really hard and seems really glad to be a pirate.”

Nichol noted that there could be a chance for Nelson to receive starting reps in practice and could compete for a starting job if he is cleared to play this season.

In two seasons at Minnesota with 16 starts, Nelson recorded 2,179 yards for 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

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