With quarterback Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement right before the start of last season, it’s now fair to ask who the Indianapolis Colts new ‘face of the franchise’ is—following in the long line of Luck and his legendary predecessor, Peyton Manning—a franchise streak which has spanned nearly 20 years of football.
While there are a handful of potential options, there’s only one real choice right now: Quenton Nelson.
Since being drafted with the 6th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the former generational guard prospect has already lived up to his enormous hype—having earned consecutive First-Team NFL All-Pro honors in his first two seasons.
Even though some critics questioned the Colts taking an offensive guard that early in the draft, Nelson was a special talent that Indianapolis simply couldn’t pass up on:
“Look, on draft day, and I learned this a long time ago, don’t ever pass up whoever you think is a great player,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard recently said on Colin Cowherd’s ‘The Herd’. “If you think the guy is a unique, special talent, I don’t care what position he is.”
“I brought it up when we talked about Quenton Nelson,” Ballard added. “They asked me ‘great player versus need’, and it just happened that they said you can’t take a guard at #6, and I said, ‘Why not?’ I said, ‘This guy is a unique talent. That’s who we’re taking. We’re taking unique talents. You never pass up on a unique talent.’”
Nelson has since started all 32 games for the Colts over the past two seasons and has consistently been rated as an elite player by literally any metric. He didn’t surrender a single sack last season, while delivering bone-crushing blocks in the process.
Heck, at age 24, he’s already arguably the top offensive guard in all of football.
It’s not just that Nelson is great though.
There have been a lot of great players, who historically haven’t been face of the franchise material—whether it’s their personality, their disdain of the limelight, or just possessing a different leadership style entirely.
Nelson plays with tremendous physicality, toughness, and tenacity that is infectious on his teammates. He’s been a catalyst for one of the NFL’s most improved and strongest offensive lines over the past two seasons and is a ‘first player to practice, last one to leave’ type of young leader for the Colts talented squad.
It’s those special qualities that make Nelson true ‘face of the franchise’ material:
“He’s got everything we want in terms of character, work ethic, toughness, passion for the game, and he is going to be great for this team and the city of Indianapolis,” Ballard said shortly after selecting Nelson with the Colts’ top pick in 2018.
However, saying Nelson just has a ‘workman-like, lead by example’ game would be selling him a bit short from a playing style perspective.
He’s turned what’s historically been an unheralded guard position that typically just does the dirty work (and a position that one doesn’t typically notice unless a guard blows an assignment)—and isn’t as sexy as its counterparts at offensive tackle or center for that matter, and transformed it into an art with ‘Big Q’s House of Pancakes’—with hundreds of flapjacks already sold.
Only butter, maple syrup, and lots of delivered pain serve as Nelson’s preferred paint brush of choice.
Nelson has made legit highlight reels... at offensive guard, the way a star NFL quarterback, running back, or wide receiver otherwise would each Sunday.
While other teams’ fans clamor for skill position highlights on Sportscenter or other mediums, Colts fans are waiting for NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger to drop his latest ‘Big Q’ highlights come each Monday morning—because they’re that fun and entertaining to watch and truly embody the spirit of the game and what football is truly about in its purest form: strength, physicality, toughness, athleticism, and just overall physical dominance:
.@colts @BigQ56 was at it again playing LG, enforcer, cheerleader , mauler. He wears many hats and on a day when it was all about the “finish” no one finishes like BigQ. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/gLKlur3lH9— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 26, 2018
.@colts @BigQ56 #fightingirish #colts Welcome to Gator Country. After BigQ “goes about his business” he likes to sit on his victims like a Lion sits on his game for the whole pride to eat. No one plays the game like this . I can’t wait for next Sunday. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/o1xNxhL0cw— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 19, 2018
Although most ‘face of the franchise’ players are typically quarterbacks, running backs, or wide receivers—sometimes even pass rushers or linebackers, very rarely—if ever has an offensive lineman been given such a high distinction—much less an offensive guard.
Cleveland Browns’ 7x First-Team All-Pro, 2x 2nd-Team All-Pro, and 10x Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas immediately comes to mind as the 3rd overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft and as a future First-Ballot Hall of Famer (on some bad Browns’ teams), but otherwise the list pretty well stops there in recent memory.
The fact that Nelson plays guard and is even in this discussion is by itself, pretty incredible.
However, that’s the type of transcendent talent, at what has historically been an overlooked position, that he really is. Guard or no guard, he’s simply a great player, who makes his teammates and entire team better—by elevating everyone’s game and practice habits.
So along with his superior blocking: enjoy the generous eye black, and the 6’5”, 330 pound animal along the interior offensive line with his pancakes, WWE-like takedowns, and full sprints downfield to help provide a friendly hand to a downed teammate on the turf that is Big Q.
He’s the complete package at offensive guard—if there ever was one.
Nelson is a brawler and a mauler—who simply finishes blocks with immense strength and power, but he’s also an incredibly smart player with great awareness, athleticism, flexibility, and impeccable technique—with underlying leadership skills.
The young superstar guard whose career arc currently screams, ‘No question, Canton. Bring the gold jacket,’ very well might just be the Colts’ next great ‘face of the franchise’.
Who is the Colts Next Face of the Franchise?
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Not on the current roster