When the Green Bay Packers presented Jordy Nelson with a contract in early October that would have set most regular folks up for life -- a four-year, $14 million deal -- the ascending fourth-year wide receiver signed it with little hesitation, even though he would have become a free agent at the end of the season.
It was the ultimate buy-low-and-hold stock the Packers had been watching closely for Nelson's first three seasons in Green Bay. The secret started to get out after his nine-catch, 140-yard performance in Super Bowl XLV, but to most outsiders, Nelson was still nothing more than Aaron Rodgers' fifth-best option.
All that suddenly has changed. In the last five games, a stretch that began shortly after he signed his new deal, Nelson has 22 catches for 447 yards and a league-best six touchdowns -- five in the last three weeks.
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As teams have been paying more attention to Greg Jennings and tight end Jermichael Finley, Nelson has become the beneficiary. On Sunday in a 35-26 win over Tampa Bay, a day in which Jennings and Finley combined for just three receptions, Nelson hauled in six catches for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-clincher with 2:55 left.
The game came after a week of much national discourse over Nelson's race (he's white, for those who've fallen behind). The entire subject matter, Nelson says, "made me feel uncomfortable."
So does the spotlight, but there's no escaping it now. Not with the way he's playing. Not with his undefeated team chasing history. Not with his quarterback on pace for a record-setting season.
Which brings us back to the contract he signed in October. No regrets, he says about a deal that could look pretty watered down by the time March rolls around. Part of the reason he signed it was his on-field relationship with Rodgers.
"A lot of people believe getting in here that the hard part is the playbook," Nelson said after Sunday's game. "The playbook's the easy thing. It's being on the same page with your quarterback. ... We'll continue to grow."
Together. For at least four more years.