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Ex-Gophers QB Philip Nelson impresses during East Carolina debut

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Former Minnesota Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson has re-emerged in college football after two seasons away from it.

No he wasn't wearing the Maroon and Gold of the Gophers last week, it wasn't even in Minnesota, but Nelson returned to the field leading East Carolina to a 52-7 victory over Western Carolina.

That left his new coach beaming about the Mankato West product.

"We think Philip Nelson had one of the better games we've seen a quarterback have," said Pirates coach Scottie Montgomery during his mid-week press conference. "He only had a few (in)completions. One of those was a good (in)completion. When I say 'good (in)completion,' he got the ball out of his hand and stopped us from having a loss-of-yardage play."

Just how good was Nelson?

"We knew Phil was going to be special," Montgomery told the Star Tribune. "It's been a long time since he played. He handled his emotions. He dealt with it all week. He prepared. That wasn't shocking to us."

Nelson announced that he was transferring from Minnesota in January 2014. He was looking for a more passing-centered offense.

A difficult and complicated journey

His first stop was at Rutgers, but that opportunity came to an end after Nelson was involved in a fight while back at home in Mankato that left Isaac Kolstad with brain damage.

He wound up pleading guilty to fifth-degree assault.

Surveillance video from the incident shows Kolstad pushing Nelson to the ground, before Trevor Shelley punched Kolstad in the head and knocked him to the ground. The video then shows Nelson kicking Kolstad in the head.

Nelson had also hoped to catch on at Fresno State and South Alabama, but those plans fell through. He wound up walking on at East Carolina, where he finally got back on the field last week.

Nelson hasn't said a lot about the Mankato incident, but he has vowed not to let it define him.

"This is just a couple seconds of my life," Nelson told WCCO-TV in January 2015. "It doesn't define who I am. I just know that ... I've got plenty of life to live. Anyway I can share my experience and help other people learn from my mistake, that would be something that I would really look forward to doing."

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