It was September 25, 2004 when he tore his ACL after netting 25 receptions in his first four contests to begin the year. That meant a long rehabilitation process and questions began to arise.
With Roethlisberger throwing Martin Nance the rock in 2003, the 6-foot-5 wideout shattered Miami's single-season receiving records for receptions (90) and receiving yards (1,498), while placing fourth nationally in receiving yards per game.
The ability was clearly there. But how would his leg respond?
With the season fast approaching, Nance was in the midst of gaining the confidence back in his knee. The physical part was fine but it wasn't until he locked up on the practice field with his teammates that the strength of conviction in his own abilities came back. And winning that mental part was just as big a challenge.
But the questions about his health or ability to bounce back never bothered Nance:
"I don't think it was a ton of pressure for me. It was an opportunity. I looked at it as a positive. It was a challenge and I look forward to challenges. To hear people question if I would come back or project that I would not be able to do the things I had done in the past was motivation for me to work hard and come back and show that I could come back and do the things I did before and show improvement."
The encore to his 2003 season came in a big way. He ended up catching 81 passes for 1,107 yards with 14 touchdowns – more than half of Miami's (OH) total touchdown output from its passing game – in 2005.
More than a year removed from surgery, Nance has nothing to hide as the poking and prodding process begins.
The first step in that process of baring it all comes this week when the Senior Bowl practices get underway.
"An opportunity to go down there and play against great competition," Nance said of his expectations. "It is also an opportunity to work in front of NFL head coaches. I hope to learn a lot and show people what I can do on the field."
A former sprinter and cornerback in high school, Nance is eager to show that MAC wide receivers can be just as special as MAC quarterbacks.
He knows that people have seen the film on him and created a buzz when scouts came to see Roethlisberger two years ago. Paving his own way will require him to show teams his character – an increasingly important trait in the NFL Draft process.
"I want to get a chance to talk to coaches and be myself," Nance said. "I think that I am the type of guy that can be comfortable and does not have to put on a show. I feel confident about my character and the things I have done in my past that I don't have anything to hide or anything to worry about. I look forward to meeting with the coaches and just being natural and letting them know what kind of personality I have."
One at a time, Nance is dispelling any qualms about his all-around game. His season thwarted questions about his health and now he gets a chance to face the challenge of meeting coaches and scouts from around the league. It is something he has been working for since his college career began and his hard work has proven that any goal he sets can be accomplished.