One of the greatest players in Green Bay Packer history, President Mark Murphy called him. Someone who personifies class — what it means to be a Packers — more than anyone else in the mind of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
And on Tuesday morning, Jordy Nelson got to embrace it all one more time as he returned to Lambeau Field and sign a one-day contract to officially retire as a Packer.
Nelson, who played last season with the Oakland Raiders after the Packers released him in March 2018, caught 550 passes for 7,848 yards and 69 touchdowns in his 10 seasons in Green Bay. His 1,519 receiving yards in 2014 is the best single-season mark in franchise history and he is the only one in that history to have at least 13 touchdowns in three separate seasons.
Oh, and right. He was the first Packer of the new millennium to find the end zone in a Super Bowl, helping bring Green Bay its second-ever championship with nine catches for 140 yards.
But for Nelson to take a step back and consider how it actually feels to receive the honor, to be beloved enough to come back to where he started and retire as one of its legends?
“Humbling, kind of surreal — it’s hard to explain,” Nelson answered when asked the question Tuesday. “It’s still weird, sometimes we’ll go places and we’ll get recognized and you wonder ‘how’ or ‘why’ we do.”
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“As Fine a Person As You’ll Ever Meet”
Nelson said Murphy reached out to him a few days after he had announced his retirement, about two weeks after the Raiders had released him earlier this year on March 14.
Murphy wanted him to end his pro career where he began it as a second-round pick out of Kansas State in 2008: back in Green Bay, retiring as a Packer.
“When you get that request, I was very appreciative of that,” Nelson said. “And honestly, the fans as well. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal until I talked to some people. … they were kind of adamant about it. So that’s part of it as well, but I’ll be remembered as a Packer. … This is where I started and it’s great to come back that way.”
—Jordy Nelson during Tuesday’s retirement press conference.
The love for Nelson among Packers fans has been palpable since he broke into the starting lineup and hardly faded in the short year since he left Green Bay.
Fans took to social media within hours of the wide receiver being released last season, expressing well wishes for him and dismay over the organization’s decision to cut him loose.
The reception was no different from fans on the day of his retirement ceremony, as they reached out to thank him for the tremendous plays and unforgettable memories he brought to Green Bay.
“Looks Like He Could Still Play”
Rodgers smiled at his locker when a reporter asked him about Nelson. How couldn’t he? As he put it, they shared an “unspoken connection.”
During Nelson and Rodgers’ 10 shared seasons together, the deadly Packer duo linked up for . a completion nearly two-thirds of the time Rodgers threw to him — 470 catches on 705 attempts — and averaged 9.8 yards per attempt with 6,919 yards and 65 touchdowns their final combined total.
But those are just the figures. Rodgers remembered the moments. Like his first career Super Bowl touchdown pass, a 29-yard deep ball to Nelson down the right sideline to begin the Packers march to a 31-25 Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.
Or how early in his career Nelson had “a little Barry Sanders to him” in the way he would hand the ball to the official. Rodgers said the jokes started later in his career when Nelson started spiking the ball after scoring — all in good fun.
“And then just the little things. The unspoken connection. The back-shoulder throws. The ability to throw it out to a spot and know he’s going to be there. We just always had that little ability to click on the field and I’m excited about him. …I said (to him) I hope I’m on the shortlist of guys to introduce him in four years for the Packer Hall of Fame.”
—Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after Tuesday’s practice.
Of course, Rodgers had to throw in a comment about Nelson’s physical condition, which to say the least is still very much that of an NFL player.
“Looks like he could play,” Rodgers said after the second and final day of joint practices with the Houston Texans, who got chippy with the Packers during Monday’s first session.