When Laress Nelson woke up Wednesday morning, the morning of National Signing Day, he wasn’t 100% sure where he would be going. He was still waiting to see whether or not he had earned an offer from his top choice. Fast-forward a few hours, to about 9:30-10 o’clock, and the offer came through from the one school he really wanted to go to. He accepted, and now Laress Nelson is a proud member of the Class of 2017 for Michigan State.
“It was a big relief,” Nelson told Spartan Nation of what it felt like to receive his MSU offer. “I was so concerned with how this school was going to go. When I took the visit, I loved it up there, so it was part of my life – like, that’s all I was missing…I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
He had actually said to Spartan Nation on Tuesday night, “I want to be a Spartan, but sometimes, not always do your dreams work out.”
But less than 24 hours later, Laress was living proof that dreams can come true.
“It means a lot. This was always something I wanted. I worked hard at the end of the day. And the thing is…I never lost faith; you’re never supposed to lose faith – trust God, believe in God. That was a big step in this football period, just being with God, just being patient through the dark times. He’s gonna lead you the right way…he’s gonna guide you there,” Nelson admitted.
This 5’9”, 165-pound wide receiver out of Plantation, FL possesses exactly the kind of “head and mind” you’d like to see your team recruit. But his playing ability matches that. His grit and determination stand high above his 5’9” stature. And his blocking ability is akin to those of bigger, stronger DBs – he loves to block for his fellow WRs and wallop defenders downfield.
“Yes sir, that’s part of the game. I block for them, just like I want people to block for me – it’s a team sport; we’ve all got to go out there and compete and help each other out,” Laress explained.
But where does that grit come from? That often tends to be one of the skills we refer to in sports as a skill that “you either have, or you don’t.”
“That fight comes from just having nothing – having to go out there and work everyday, grind. It was just all hunger – I had to go out there in the mud,” Nelson said.
As for whether or not you’ll see that fight with the same intensity in college as in high school, Laress explained, “It’s not going anywhere. It’s gonna come even harder!”
As a matter of fact, here at Spartan Nation we have dubbed Laress “Bad Blood Smurf.” The former USFL team, the Michigan Panthers, used to nickname their wide receivers “Smurfs” because they were small. At 5’9”, Laress fits that billing, but that grittiness on the field has earned him the current nickname “Bad Blood Smurf!”
His hands are also a tremendous positive in his game.
“I’d say about my junior year, during the springtime – when the spring was over, I had zero drops during practice, and then I just took that to the game. During the game, it was just go time,” Nelson explained.
But it boils down to much more than just having fight, being able to block with ferocity downfield, or having great hands. At the most basic level, this is simply about Laress’ love for the game.
“That was my biggest dream growing up. My grandma put the ball in my hand, and I never took it out,” Nelson said.
“Actually, she put a basketball in my hands first, then a baseball…then football just came to be, like in 3rd grade.”
Unfortunately, Laress’ grandmother passed away about a year after she put that football in his hands. But he says, whenever he takes the field, she’s with him the entire time.
“Actually, I write her name and my grandfather’s name on my cleats. In the State game I did it also…I put it on my gloves. I have to go out there and fight for them,” Laress admitted.
Nelson has his eyes on the classroom as well, not just the football field.
“Getting a degree is majorly important,” he admitted. “My first time on campus at Michigan State, the first thing they took me to on the tour was the Business department, and I was so excited because I just love to gain more knowledge…you can never gain too much knowledge.”
And he’ll be doing it all at the place he spent a lot of time wishing and hoping he would, one day, be a part of.
“It was just the people…the feel. When I got up there, everyone welcomed me with open arms. Everyone is just a family base, and that plays a big role in the school and the team and those people who surround you.”
Get ready, Spartan Nation. Something tells me you’re going to love this kid, almost as much as, if not more than, he loves Michigan State…his brand new home.