Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson feels like he is slept on because he is a Caucasian wideout and for the most part he is actually right.
As one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets and a big key in the Packers’ Super Bowl victory last season, Nelson has gone from being a relatively unknown player from Kansas State to a reliable playmaker.
In the Super Bowl, Nelson had 9 catches for 140 yards and a big touchdown. This year, Jordy is tied with Panthers wideout Steve Smith when it comes to most yards per reception in the NFL with 18.6. As some of the receivers on the Packers joke that Nelson benefits from being the only white WR on the team, Nelson thinks that it works 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.”
Packers teammate Greg Jennings, who is black, believes Nelson isn’t like other white pass catchers who’ve played in the NFL. “It’s easy for someone to say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s like one of those other white receivers,'” Jennings said. “He’s not. I’m sorry. He’s not. He knows how I feel about it. Maybe I’m a little biased because he is a teammate, but from watching him day one to right now, totally different player.”
This bias is a natural one and it begins at a very early age, and in different sports too. When picking teams for basketball, it’s common to see the black player picked before the white player even if he’s not as good as the white basketball player.
If you don’t believe me go watch an AAU game and analyze how the white ballers are defended. You might hear a person in the crowd yell “Shooter!” once a Caucasian guard checks in the game. The opposing team usually guards these players up close and dare them to drive in.
In football, we are used to seeing Caucasians dominate at positions such as quarterback, punter, and kicker. That’s why when Peyton Hillis, a white running back, has a great season he lands on the cover of Madden. Additionally, you don’t see many African-Americans at the punter position but Rodney Williams played in the NFL and was an effective player for the Giants for a few seasons.
In Jordy Nelson’s case, I think that being white has definitely contributed to his success as a receiver in the NFL. But he’s getting to the point in his career where he will soon be looked at like a “Wes Welker”, which is the point where teams will forget that he’s white and cover him like the dangerous threat he is. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years, Nelson will look up and see guys like Revis and Asomugha lining up against him.