Quenton Nelson made his big reveal on May 31 in an un-offensive lineman type way.
Notre Dame’s starting left guard – a first-team preseason All-American on Sports Illustrated – took to Twitter with side-by-side selfies, the before-and-after of Nelson’s off-season of eating better and working out more. The junior’s transformation was striking. That’s what dropping 30 pounds of weight looks like.
Nelson, who broke into the 340-pound range last year had cut all the way down to 312 pounds by the time he returned to campus in June for summer school. Some of that weight has naturally come back, but Nelson is still a fitter offensive guard than last year while remaining just as mean.
“Just hard work,” Nelson said. “I felt like I needed to do it so I could play lower. I’m moving a lot quicker too. I think it’s helped me a lot as a player.”
It was hard to tell from four open practices, but Nelson does seem quicker in depositing linebackers on the sidelines. And it’s not like he was slow before, starting 11 games last season, playing through a high ankle sprain and looking like another Harry Hiestand product with NFL potential.
For Nelson to make good on all that potential he attacked his diet this summer, cutting down carbs to basically fruits. He focused on consuming higher percentages of water within his liquid intake. Breakfast omelets started to include avocado and kale.
“It was hard to do, but (it took) being consistent with it every day while I was home for those three weeks,” Nelson said. “My parents were buying healthy food for me. Big credit to them too.
“A lot of guys on the team were impressed with the shape that I got into. I felt like I should do it, but (Hiestand) was all for it when I lost the weight and so was coach (Paul) Longo. They were happy. I’m really happy with the result. I feel like I’m playing a lot better, lower pad level and moving better.”
Nelson counts as a veteran now, his 11 career starts trailing only Mike McGlinchey and Tarean Folston on the offense. The Irish line is one in transition with Alex Bars and right tackle and Sam Mustipher still not a sure thing at center. The right guard spot vacated by Steve Elmer remains a two-man competition between Tristen Hoge and Colin McGovern.
Regardless of the outcome, the Irish line at Texas won’t have more than 27 career starts spread across the group. Elmer would have had more than that on his own.
Nelson likes the sound of his experience in practice, at least when it comes to Hiestand. He still hears plenty from the Irish line boss, but the volume has been turned way down.
“That’s because I’m not making the mistakes that I would last year,” Nelson said. “If I were still making those mistakes, he’d still coach me the same.”
Could Nelson be better? Sure. He knows that. But the consensus is he’s well on his way down Hiestand’s production line of NFL prospects.
“When I first came here I wasn’t that great of a player,” Nelson said. “(Hiestand) just developed me so much into the player that I am today along with my work ethic and how hard I work. He’s the best coach and I respect him so much. My game is a testament to his coaching.
“I try to be my best every day just like he does.”