"I had a ways to go," he said. "I had to buckle down and get it done in the classroom."
That didn't prevent the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder from picking up nearly 20 offers from programs like Pittsburgh, Michigan State, Wake Forest, Arkansas, and Missouri prior to signing with NC State in February, a decision that he is still thrilled with.
"I don't have any regrets about my recruitment at all. I'm still pumped up... I can't wait to get there and get started."
After signing, Nelson turned his attention to one goal: qualifying for college.
"I didn't have a social life," he said, laughing. "It was school work and workouts. I'd go to school and call my mom and tell her I was on the way home to work on my coursework.
"I had a schedule that worked for me, and I didn't get away from it. I did my school work and then I would do my wrestling and football workouts... run stairs. I knew I had to stay after it, and it paid off."
Nelson said he received the news a few weeks ago that he had qualified academically.
"I knew I was going to make it because I did work so hard."
One of the Wolfpack's top recruits in the 2013 recruiting class, Nelson's next goal will be playing as a true freshman.
"I'm going to go in and work hard," he said. "I didn't follow our recruiting class too much, but I know we have a great class coming in.
"I'll be there around noon [on June 26th]. I can't wait to get started."
Nelson was rated a three-star prospect and the No. 55 defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com. He finished his senior season with 11.5 sacks.