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Season in Review: Reggie Nelson

#1 Reggie Nelson
Junior Safety
Palm Bay, FL

Stats (including previous seasons)
Year  Tackles  TFL  Int  FF  FR
2005    46      4    1   1   0    
2006    50      2    6   0   1

Reggie Nelson came to the University of Florida football program prior to the 2005 season after spending some time at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  This followed him failing to meet necessary requirement to enroll at the University of Florida when recruited and play football for the Gators.

As evidenced by this season's performance, the wait was well worth it for the Gators, as Nelson stormed on the scene and took home such honors as being selected to the All-SEC first team defense as well as the Walter Camp All-American squad.  He was also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, trying to be the first Gator to take home the honor since safety Lawrence Wright in '96, only to lose to Texas CB (and fellow All-American) Aaron Ross.

The legend of Nelson grew among Gator fans last season against the Georgia Bulldogs, a game in which he got his first start for the Orange and Blue.  In that game he recorded 7 tackles and wowed Gator fans with a gigantic hit on Bulldog WR Mohamed Massaquoi on a pass breakup.  This game showed us the intensity and skill that Reggie Nelson was capable of, leading to the assumption that Nelson would be a key part of the Gators defense in 2006.

With his propensity for big hits and crucial plays out of the secondary, Reggie Nelson not only caught the eye of all Gator fans in 2006, but many around the country as well.  His performances on the field this season cemented him as a big-game, big-play defensive back, one that earned respect from every team he played against in the end.  Just by looking at the major wins on the Gators schedule this season, you will see that Reggie Nelson had a hand in almost all of them, whether it was blocking a kick, making a big hit, intercepting a pass or scoring a defensive touchdown.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the major plays the Gators got out of Reggie Nelson this season:

  • Picked off two passes in Knoxville off of Vols' QB Eric Ainge, including his first and last passes of the game.  The final interception helped the Gators run the clock out and end a Tennessee attempt to produce a go-ahead score.
  • In a win over Alabama he had an interception in which he returned 70 yards to put the game away for the Gators.  He also recovered a fumble and broke up a pretty important pass late in the game on a crucial Alabama drive.
  • Against LSU he blocked a punt in the third quarter to help the Gators take the momentum for good against the Tigers.  He also laid out an LSU receiver (the name isn't coming to my mind) to create a deflection for a Ryan Smith interception.
  • Recovered a fumble against Georgia on a botched punt return by the Bulldogs.
  • Blocked a punt against Vanderbilt that led to a short-field score by the Gators offense.  As we all know, the Gators needed all the points they could get against the Commodores.
  • Recorded an interception against FSU to help halt a pretty important drive for the 'Noles, who were attempting to strengthen their comeback at the time.  While he was shaken up on the play, Nelson came back out and in the end had recorded 6 tackles and the 1 interception.
As you can see, Reggie Nelson is a big-play type of player for the Gators, and he has been strengthening that description all season long.  It was not only his key plays that helped his teammates along the way, though.  It was very easy to notice that opposing teams were not trying to have any part of Reggie Nelson, continually avoiding throwing in his general direction on the field whenever possible.  With that in mind, his stats on the season are even more impressive, as he has had to find ways to create turnovers and blocked kicks when everyone is well aware of his presence at all times.

There have been rumors all over the internet message boards as well as some pretty reliable news sources (FloridaToday.com being one of them) stating that Reggie was going to forego his senior season with the Gators to take a shot at the NFL draft.  While this has not been confirmed by Reggie, and I don't expect anything like that will be until after the season is over, I must say that his absence will be a huge loss to the 2007 defense.  That being said, though, I must say I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors as a football player...But first things first Reggie - we would love to see some big plays out of you against the Buckeyes on January 8th.

Previous Season in Reviews: QB Chris Leak

Picture courtesy of The Alligator