Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nelson, Martinez, Rhule’s Former Bears Boost Draft Stock at NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

January 29, 2023

Former Huskers and players Matt Rhule recruited and coached at Baylor competed in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Saturday evening.

The most notable of the former Huskers was Scottsbluff native Garrett Nelson. He showcased his abilities as an edge rusher most of the afternoon at the Rose Bowl. Nelson recovered from an early missed tackle to join in multiple tackles. Unofficial final stats showed Nelson had four tackles in the game. He showed he can keep containment and collapse into the backfield, continuing the strong showing he made in practice throughout the week. Nelson also beat his opposing tackle, out of a two-point and a three-point stance, in pass rushing. He showed quickness on the edge at times and strength with a straight bull rush at other points. The former Husker team captain went without a sack but pressured the quarterback to run at the boundary and throw towards the sidelines. Oddly enough, that quarterback sometimes was Adrian Martinez.

Martinez, the multi-year Nebraska starter who transferred to Kansas State his final year, rolled to his right with Nelson in pursuit on that play. Martinez delivered a strike to Malachi Carter so the former Georgia Tech receiver could make toe-tap for a first down. That drive ended when Martinez muscled into the end zone from the 2-yard line. Carter’s sideline snag made up for a prior drop when the former Husker and Wildcat threw a potential touchdown bomb. Martinez put the ball out ahead of Carter, who got a hand on it but couldn’t bring the ball in. He even showed a little flash with a no-look pass over the middle as the National team needed to convert on third down. The three-time Nebraska captain who holds 16 different Husker records finished 5 of 10 for 53 yards, plus 9 yards rushing.

One of Martinez’s targets for the night, and one who blocked Nelson long enough to spring Martinez’s touchdown run, was former Baylor tight end Ben Sims. Sims is a former 3-star standout at Clark High School in San Antonio that Matt Rhule recruited to Baylor. He committed in June 2017 as a member of the 2018 recruiting class. Sims scored a receiving touchdown in Saturday’s game, capitalizing on a good week of practice with a 32-yard haul on a wheel route. He beat former Memphis linebacker Tyler Murray down the sidelines and caught the pass in stride for the National team. Sims led the National team with 35 yards receiving and gained praise from his former head coach with the touchdown.

Another former Baylor Bear that Rhule brought to Waco who competed on Saturday was cornerback Mark Milton. Milton is also a Texas high school product, coming from Clear Brook High School in Friendswood, Texas. He was a speedy 3-star recruit at the time and now he’s bolstering his recruiting profile. Milton played on the National team alongside Sims and Martinez. Two other former Baylor Bears competed but transferred to the program after Rhule left for the NFL.

Nelson and his American teammates ultimately won the game, 19-17, on a field goal as time expired.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is one of three effective collegiate all-star games that allows standouts another chance to catch the eyes of NFL scouts. The next one is the East-West Shrine Bowl, on February 2. Former Husker Ochaun Mathis is committed to playing in that game. The final collegiate all-star game of the three, the Reese’s Senior Bowl, is Saturday, February 4. Nebraska receiving record holder Trey Palmer is entered to play there. That leaves collegiate pro days and the NFL combine to bolster resumes before the Draft.

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