Jeff Kolpack, Published August 12 2013
Persistence paying off for Bison's NelsonFARGO – Taylor Nelson has no idea how he got the nickname “Tank,” but his toughness fits the part. Ask the North Dakota State tight end about the temporary practice fields at Ellig Sports Complex and he’ll tell you he doesn’t care where he practices.
“Put us on concrete and we’ll get the job done,” he said.
Nelson is one of those players who seemingly embrace the “grind” in football practice. They wear that word like a badge of honor.
About the only thing missing since practice started last week is the August heat. As it is, Nelson is one of 26 seniors – including two at tight end – returning to defend their Missouri Valley Football Conference and FCS national titles.
It’s been a work in progress after playing sparingly in five games as a redshirt freshman.
“I was at the bottom of the totem pole,” Nelson said. “But you keep working. You listen to every detail on what the coaches have to say. Then you get in that film room and learn from the older guys.”
That learning paid off last season. Nelson made the most of his five receptions, with three of them going for touchdowns.
Senior Kevin Vaadeland is the top returning receiving tight end with 18 catches last season. At 6-foot-4 and 253 pounds, Nelson is more of the pounding-type of tight end.
“We have to be versatile,” Nelson said. “You have to be able to catch the ball and you have to be able to block, so you have to adapt to a lot of things. You work on it every day. Technique. Footwork. The big thing is just striving to get better.”
NDSU lost senior Garrett Bruhn from last year at the position. Sophomore Lucas Albers has made strides in the last two spring football seasons to crack the depth chart.
Head coach Craig Bohl said he considers Nelson and Vaadeland “co-starters.” Nelson said he thinks it was Bohl who gave him the “Tank” nickname after his freshman year and it just stuck.
“He’s a tough guy,” Bohl said. “He’s going to do everything he can to get on the field.”
Speaking of fields, Bohl said he expects to return to NDSU’s practice facility on Wednesday when the GameDay Grass artificial turf project is completed. Sod trucks were brought in Monday for the final construction phase of the $350,000 endeavor, with funds being entirely privately raised.
The middle of the three fields has the AstroTurf product, which formerly was in the Fargodome for a couple of months before a glitch developed with the surface’s underlay. Bohl said although practicing at the outdoor track and field complex was an adjustment, it has not been a hindrance.
“At first, it was like this is a different place,” Nelson said, “but it hasn’t affected us at all.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found