A Super Bowl hero is crediting his eye-popping success this season to old-school racial stereotypes.
Green Bay Packers’ receiver Jordy Nelson, who is white, has become one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets and believes his skin color has been somewhat of an asset.
Nelson broke onto the spotlight a year ago by scoring a crucial touchdown in his team’s Super Bowl XLV win over the Steelers, becoming just the fourth NFL wide receiver ever to post nine catches for 140 yards and a score in the Super Bowl.
Other Packers receivers joke that Nelson is the beneficiary of being the only white receiver on the team, suggesting opposing defensive backs don’t think of Nelson as a big a threat.
Nelson tells the Green Bay Press Gazette that he’s used this racial bias to his advantage. “Honestly, I think it is (a factor),” Nelson told the Press Gazette. “As receivers, we’ve talked about it. I know (cornerbacks coach) Joe Whitt tells me all the time, when all the rookies come in, he gives them the heads up, ‘Don’t let him fool ya.’ That’s fine with me.”
Among the top 15 NFL wide receivers in yardage, only New England Patriots star Wes Welker, the league leader in receptions and yards, is white.
Apparently people have been underestimating Nelson for a while. He went from being a walk-on safety as a freshman in 2003 to posting the most prolific single season in Kansas State history, with 122 receptions for 1,606 yards in 2007.
Rodgers, the favorite to win league MVP honors, joined the conversation about racial perceptions with a teammate during Green Bay’s blowout win over the Vikings Monday night. “I was talking to ‘Wood’ (Charles Woodson) in the fourth quarter and he said, ‘When you see Jordy out there, you think, ‘Oh well, he’s a white wide receiver. He won’t be very athletic.’ But Jordy sort of breaks all those stereotypes,” Rodgers said during his weekly radio show in Milwaukee this week. “I am not sure why he keeps sneaking up on guys.”
Nelson has caught 61 passes for 1,082 yards and a stunning 13 touchdowns over his last 15 games for the Packers.