Born: March 19, 1996
Quenton Nelson·was born March 19, 1996 in Holmdel. Huge for his age from birth, Quenton had to drop 20 pounds each summer as a boy to play on his older brother’s football team. Quenton’s father coached his Pop Warner team. He taught all of the kids to play through the whistle. Quenton took this to heart and soon developed a reputation as a relentless, aggressive lineman who could blow his man 10 yards off a play. He also studied Taekwondo to increase his explosiveness and flexibility.
After beginning his prep career at Holmdel High, Quenton transferred to nearby Red Bank Catholic, which boasted one of the best programs in Monmouth County. He was heavily recruited as a guard by several major schools and ended up accepting a scholarship from Notre Dame. After redshirting as a freshman, he saw steady action in 2015 and cracked the starting lineup in 2016 and 2017. While the 2016 team had a disastrous 4–8 season, the 2017 squad rebounded with 10 victories, a bowl win and a #11 national ranking.
At South Bend, Quenton grew to 6’5” and 330 pounds. He was an outstanding run blocker and particularly nasty in pass protection, where he improved greatly over his three college seasons. His strength was off the charts—he could easily pump out 30 reps bench-pressing 225 pounds.
By the time Quenton declared for the draft in 2018, he was near the top of every list of non-skill position prospects. The Indianapolis Colts took him with the sixth overall pick—unusually high for a guard. Baker Mayfield, Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold went 1-2-3, followed by defensive stars Denzel Ward and Bradley Chubb. Quenton’s Notre Dame linemate Mike McGlinchey went to the 49ers three picks later. Durham Smythe, a tight end with the Fighting Irish, went to the Dolphins in the 4th round.
When Quenton arrived at training camp, his teammates were in awe. Andrew Luck said Quenton had the broadest back he’d ever seen. In the first full-pad practice, he “dirt-dogged” 310-pound defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches, sparking the Colts’ first summer brawl. On another play, Quenton had to slide over to stop a bull rush by fellow rookie Tyquan Lewis, a star at Ohio State. When the dust settled, Lewis looked like he’d hit a telephone pole. Fellow New Jerseyan Charley Casserley called Quenton the best lineman to come out of the draft since 2000.
Quenton won the starting left guard position and helped to transform the Colts’ offensive line. He was a big reason for Andrew Luck’s sensational comeback season and was named AFC Rookie of the Month for October. He was the first guard to ever win the award. After a 1–5 start, the Colts went 9–1 to secure a Wild Card berth. They beat the Texans 21–7 in the opening round of the playoffs before falling to the Chiefs. After the season, Quenton was named a First-Team All-Pro and joined Luck and tight end Eric Ebron at the Pro Bowl.
Quenton followed up his All-Pro rookie campaign with an even better season. In 2019, he did not allow a sack was whistled for just 3 penalties in 16 games. He was first-team All-Pro again, but with the retirement of Andrew Luck, Indianapolis fell to 7–9. The team sat at 6–4 after 10 weeks but the defense wore out in December. The 2020 team signed Philip Rivers as its quarterback and the veteran kept Indianapolis in the playoff hunt all season. The Colts made the playoffs, but fell in the opening round. Quenton was named to his third traight Pro Bowl and played well during an emergency stint as left tackle. Is this a possible future position for Quenton? That should be an interest development to watch over the next few seasons.