Nelson's Winter Opportunity

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Derrick Nelson and others have special plans for their fathead bowl gifts. The backup Rutgers center unveiled his bowl gift's future home, and spoke with Scout about his audition for a starting job upon Betim Bujari's graduation.

In one New Brunswick apartment building, business is about to pick up in the decoration department.

The Detroit Quick Lane Bowl offers a unique present for players. Personalize fatheads – life-sized wall art – go to every member of the both the Rutgers and North Carolina.

Backup center Derrick Nelson can’t wait for the art project that awaits upon the return to campus.

“We decided we’re going to put them all over our hallways,” Nelson said. “All of our rooms and all of our roommates – Darius Hamilton, Julian Pinnix-Odrick, Vance Matthews – we’re going to hang them up down the hallway. Rutgers [will be] fatheads everywhere.”

Design plans are fun, but the rest of December is about business for the 6-foot-3, 290-pound sophomore from Washington (D.C.) Archbishop Carroll.

“I’ve found this whole bowl-prep time to be very exciting,” Nelson said. “I really like it. Younger guys get a chance to step up and mature. We take a lot of time out to learn the playbook. It’s nice.”

Nelson debuted this season against Howard, but center Betim Bujari stayed healthy enough to not need a backup for any significant portion of playing time.

Bujari plays his final game as a Scarlet Knight next week.

“I think about it sometimes, a lot,” Nelson said. “But as of right now, I’m primarily focused on this bowl game.”

Chris Muller has practice experience at center. With most of his playing time devoted to his starting right guard spot, that opens significant doors for Nelson in bowl practice.

“I find that I need to be at my best at all times,” Nelson said. “Betim is leaving. I’m aware of that, but as of right now, I’d be doing myself a disservice to think about anything other than the playbook and the scheme and we’ll see where that goes.”

Nelson has limited center experience as a projected guard out of Archbishop Carroll. He worked with Bujari, another converted guard, often in honing his craft.

“He’s definitely taught me a lot,” Nelson said. “He’s helped with the schematics of it all. He definitely showed me things with what we do if the linebacker shifts over here or over there. I’ve definitely picked up [the adjustments]. I’m not where I want to be, but I feel that by spring time, I’ll definitely be where I need to be.”

Mitch Browning was another welcome teacher for Nelson after he joined the staff before the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl.

“Coach Browning is a very patient guy, and I really like him,” Nelson said. “He really has helped me a lot. Every day or so, I would always come in and try to talk about the game plan or ask him about something or [graduate assistant] Sam Williams will. … Coach Williams is a great guy. I’ve been in contact with him a lot.”

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