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Cedar Rapids native Matt Nelson growing into offensive lineman with Detroit Lions

Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 12:04 AM CST
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DETROIT, Michigan (KCRG) - It’s hard for many players to make it in the NFL. For former Hawkeye and Cedar Rapids Xavier prep Matt Nelson, his hard work to the NFL has paid off. Last month, he played in his first NFL game for the Detroit Lions against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“It was a little nerve-racking at first,” Nelson said. “It took me a few plays to settle down a little bit.”

Nelson signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent and spent last season on the team’s practice squad. He earned a spot on the 53-man roster this season as a backup offensive lineman, despite not going through a training camp.

As a backup, he always has to be ready for his number to be called. His first game certainly took him by surprise. Detroit lost two of its offensive linemen in the first half because of dehydration. The Lions had to shuffle players around the line and Nelson played the rest of the game at right tackle.

“It kind of hit me at the end of the game,” Nelson said. “I was like, wow I just played in an NFL game.”

Nelson didn’t just play in his first NFL game, he did it while playing a position he never played before. He played tight end in high school at Xavier and then played on the defensive line for the University of Iowa.

“Defensive line, you’re always about attacking,” Nelson said. “You’re always on your toes. You’re making the first move, that sort of stuff. As an offensive lineman, you have to be more balanced, you have to get back and be patient.”

Even with the position change, Nelson’s confidence continues to grow each week.

“There’s been frustrating days where it feels like I’ve never played offensive line before, and then there’s some days where I go home and I feel good about my development,” he said.

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