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Despite his sizable success in pro football, Jordy Nelson has gravitated toward small towns his entire life.

So when he arrives in Sioux Falls as the featured speaker for the Argus Leader Sports Awards on May 16 at the Sanford Pentagon, if anything he’ll be a little overwhelmed by all the bright lights.

A native of Riley, Kan., Nelson grew up on a farm and went to a high school with an enrollment of about 250. As you might guess of a gifted NFL wide receiver, he excelled in just about everything he did as an athlete.

As you might not guess, he also put in a lot of time helping out on the family farm, all while participating in three varsity sports.

Now approaching his 11th season with the Green Bay Packers, the former Kansas State walk-on has built a reputation for being generous with both his spirit and his time in Wisconsin and his native Kansas.

Nelson will share some of both on jerseys from china his visit to the Sioux Falls for the third annual Argus Leader Sports Awards, which honors high school athletes, coaches, teams and community members for their achievements. Previous featured speakers were Peyton Manning (2016) and Cal Ripken Jr. (2017).

“I’m looking forward to visiting South Dakota; it’s one of the few states I’ve never been to,” said Nelson in a recent phone interview. “Growing up in rural Kansas, where the nearest towns are somewhere between 500 and 800 people, it’s always interesting to see new places.”

Those planning to attend the awards banquet can expect a compelling message from Nelson. He’ll touch on his own upbringing and how that sustained him in his progress from a small-school high school star to what was initially a long shot situation at Kansas State, and then on to NFL stardom.

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“Because it’s an awards show, I expect there will be a lot of kids there who want to play at the next level, whatever that might be,” he said. “Most of all, you need to continue to have fun. And I expect a lot of the kids up for awards are going to have younger siblings there. It’s the most important thing for them, too. It’s important for all athletes that whatever you’re doing, you enjoy it.”

That goes for NFL players, too. Nelson has learned that lesson while racking up nearly 8,000 career receiving yards and 69 touchdowns for Green Bay, becoming one of the league’s most potent offensive weapons.

“I can’t image how difficult playing at this level would be if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing,” he said. “Even in the NFL, it’s not worth doing if you’re miserable.”

Nelson is not a fan of specialization in youth sports. He was an excellent basketball player in high school and one of Kansas’ top high school track athletes, this while also putting in the hours on the farm.

“It drives me nuts when I see parents trying to get their kids to specialize in a sport when they’re 8 or 10 years old,” said Nelson, who served as a substitute third-grade math teacher at his son’s elementary school while injured in 2015. “Honestly, if that had been how it was for me, I wouldn’t have ended up playing football. I always found basketball more enjoyable. Let kids experience lots of different sports. It prevents getting burned out because there is always something new to focus on.”

The family farm was also a prominent part of Nelson’s youth. His parents were both athletes growing up, so the children got their opportunities to play. The summers were busy, though. Basketball and weightlifting were tucked around time on the tractor, building fences and other chores.

“Working outside is always more fun for me,” said Nelson, who made the Pro Bowl in 2014 after posting a career-high 1,519 receiving yards and 13 TDs. “I always liked the active stuff more than just sitting on your butt in a combine. And building a fence was always more fun than repairing them.

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“You can see your progress as you go along – there’s nothing better than looking at a brand-new fence at the end of the day. When you’re repairing them, though, it looks about the same as it did when you started. And you know you’re going to have to come back and do the same thing next year.”

James Jones knows all about Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as he was with the Green Bay Packers from 2007-2013, 2015. So when he hears about the possibility of either Nelson or Cobb being cut, the NFL touchdowns leader in 2012 believes he has the answer to the Packers’ interesting problem. Jones spoke to ESPN Wisconsin last week and when it comes to Nelson, he said he would try to get him to restructure his contract.

“If I was the GM, knowing that Jordy probably only wants to play one more year,” Jones said via Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. “I sit Jordy down and I say, ‘Look, how can we restructure you? How can we get this done so you can come back? I want you, Davante and Randall on the field so we can make another run at the Super Bowl (now that) we get Aaron back.’ How can we work this out so it’s good for both parties and you can retire as a Green Bay Packer?’”

Jones went on to say that Cobb is too valuable to the Packers offense to be cut before the start of the season.

“As for Randall, I’ve been in that offensive room with Coach Mike and him putting in the game plan,” Jones said. “So I understand how valuable Randall is — to all of the packages. You can put him in the backfield, you can line him up in the slot, you can line him up outside, he can run the ball.

“I think Randall is too young to take a pay cut. Jordy? He’s old. Jordy’s on his way out. So you get one, two more good years out of Jordy, that’s good. … But I would definitely keep both of them.”

Both Nelson and Cobb, who will be free agents after the 2018 season, have cap hits of over $11 million this year. Also, both players are coming off of disappointing seasons as Nelson recorded 53 receptions for 482 yards and six touchdowns while Cobb recorded 66 receptions for 653 yards and four touchdowns. In their defense, Aaron Rodgers missed more than half of the season and when he was healthy, Nelson was leading the NFL in touchdown receptions. So with a healthy Rodgers back in the mix, there’s a good chance Nelson and Cobb will have better production in 2018. However, the 2019 season could be really interesting for the Packers if they don’t make any moves on Nelson and Cobb and let them play out the 2018 season with no restructured deals in place.

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