Green Bay Packers’ wide receiver Jordy Nelson was recognized at the 6th annual NFL Honors award ceremony last Saturday. Nelson was voted as the 2016 Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year, giving one of the strongest receiving performances in the league after missing the 2015 season due to injury.
Nelson’s 2015 season ended in a preseason contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers after tearing his ACL in his right knee.
One year later, Nelson returned to the field and ranked among the best of receivers in the NFL during the 2016 season.
Playing in all 16 regular season games, Nelson led the league with 14 touchdown receptions and a team-best, 97 receptions. His 14 touchdown receptions this season are tied for fourth-best in franchise history while his 97 receptions was good for fifth in team history. Both his touchdowns and overall receptions were his second-best in his career.
Nelson became the second Green Bay Packer to be voted as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the year.
Coincidentally, it was a Packer receiver that also donned the #87 jersey who received the honor roughly two decades ago. Robert Brooks, who played receiver for Green Bay from 1992-1998, was voted as the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America (PFW/PFWA) Comeback Player of the Year at the conclusion of the 1997 season.
Although the AP Comeback Player of the Year award dates back to 1963, no award was given from 1967-1997. A similar award was given by the United Press International (UPI) in ’62, ’63, and ’69. Additionally, the PFW/PFWA has given the award from 1972-present and Sporting News has awarded the Comeback Player of the Year since the 2008 season. Historically, these organizations presenting the awards have been mostly in agreement on the winners.
Robert Brooks was placed on the team’s injured reserve during the 1996 season after a Week 7 injury to his knee in a Monday Night Football contest against the San Francisco 49ers. Early in the game, Brooks suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during Green Bay’s thrilling 23-20 overtime victory. The Packers proceeded to finish the regular season at 13-3 and went on to win Super Bowl XXXI over the New England Patriots that season.
Brooks returned the next season as Green Bay made its second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. During the 1997 season, Brooks tallied 60 receptions for 1,010 yards and seven touchdowns, earning him the Comeback Player of the Year award.
Prior to Brooks’ injury, he recorded 102 receptions in the 1995 season, placing him third in the Packers’ record book for most receptions in a season. Nelson has put up the fourth and fifth most receptions in a season in Packers’ history (98 in 2014, 97 in 2016).
Nelson’s 1,519 receiving yards in 2014 places him first in team history, with Brooks’ 1,497 yards in 1995 close behind in second.
Both Nelson and Brooks have made significant contributions to the Packers organization, serving as key members to their respective Super Bowl teams.
As Nelson continues to leave his mark in the Packers’ record books, the Comeback Player of the Year award is a deserved testament to his toughness.
Not only did Nelson come back from a 2015 injury, but most recently, he suited up and played in the 2016 NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons after suffering broken ribs in the Wild Card matchup against the New York Giants.
Justin Skiba is a local educator and former high school football coach. He lives in Sturgeon Bay with his wife, Stephanie, and daughter, Delaney.