Nelson's UF Experience Translating to NFL

David Nelson

David Nelson heard the stigma before he ever put on an NFL helmet. In fact, he heard about it before he ever suited up for the Gators. The theory has always been that Florida wide receivers don't translate to the NFL.

For David Nelson, it has become laughable. When he talks to Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell and Louis Murphy, who have succeeded early in their careers, they can't help but wonder where the myth came from.

Nelson signed as an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills, and he has already seen techniques learned at Florida be successful against NFL defensive backs.

"A lot of the stuff I learned at Florida helped me to fit in and feel comfortable in the NFL," Nelson said. "What we did at Florida is very similar to what we're doing here in Buffalo. I was able to adjust smoothly, and I think that had a lot to do with what we did under Coach Meyer."

The spread offense the Gators run has gotten heat since before Meyer's first season in Gainesville even started. The claims first turned that it would never work in the SEC against the highest caliber athletes in college football.

All the offense has done in five seasons is contribute to two national championships.

The largest stigma that remains about the offense centers on the wide receivers not running NFL routes and not being prepared to play in the NFL.

Harvin won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in his first season, and Murphy became the most consistent receiver for the Oakland Raiders.

"I actually talked to Coach Meyer about that the other day," Nelson said. "I told him that a lot of the stuff we did while I was at Florida, I still use here and it works. I've had a couple receivers and defensive backs come up to me and talk to me about little things that I do and certain ways I run my routes."

The importance placed on blocking by the Florida coaches has Nelson in a position to see playing time, even if it comes on special teams during his first season with the Bills.

Organized team activities are completed, but training camp looms in the future. OTAs put players in limited pads and contact is kept to a minimum, but Nelson can already see his advanced blocking helping him on the field.

The Bills have been a run-dominated team over the past few years. Marshawn Lynch served as their feature back, but when he was injured, Fred Jackson stepped in without an issue. The team also took Clemson running back C.J. Spiller in the first round, giving them a three-headed running back position that could produce big numbers.

"The emphasis on blocking at Florida will help me here just because we have three running backs who are amazing talents and athletes," Nelson said. "To be able to block for some of those guys could be the difference between winning and losing a game. To add that to a toolbox of a receiver who can run routes and catch the ball, but can he hold his block? As far as me being an undrafted free agent, that's just going to help me out that much more."

The goal for every undrafted free agent is to make the team. Depth charts aren't the focus and playing time isn't an issue. The stability of being on the team and having a chance to prove his talents at the NFL is what Nelson is shooting for.

"I've felt good about everything I have been able to show them that I bring to the table," Nelson said. "My number one goal coming in was to show that I had some ability and potential. I wanted to show them that I can make this team, and I feel like I've done that. Now it's time to take the next step, which is showing I can make plays."

The situation Nelson walks into is unique. He is heading to a team with a first-year head coach in Chan Gailey. Instead of the rookies being the only ones learning about the coaching staff, the entire team is becoming familiar with something new. It also clears out the depth chart and allows Nelson to make a first impression on the coaches, just as the veterans will.

"Our main focus as a team is just learning the playbooks because there is a new coaching staff here," Nelson said. "They came in with a totally new philosophy. They didn't know the players, and the players didn't know them, so really the main thing we've been focusing on is getting comfortable with everyone. We haven't talked about depth chart at all."

Nelson is also realistic. He knows there were flaws in his game that may have caused him to go undrafted. He didn't put up eye-popping numbers at Florida, but he was disciplined enough to play his role. Now his goal changes to proving he can compete with some of the best athletes in the world.

"I don't believe in the attitude of proving everybody wrong who didn't draft me, because there were obviously reasons they didn't draft me," Nelson said. "I just want to prove that I'm capable of hanging in this league with premier athletes."

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