Former Minnesota Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson is playing football again, but this time as a walk-on at East Carolina University.
According to multiple reports, Nelson was added to ECU's roster as a walk-on and participated in the Pirates' first preseason practice on Thursday, according to 247 Sports.
Nelson started 19 games for the Gophers in 2012-13 before transferring to Rutgers. But Rutgers quickly dismissed him from the team after Nelson was involved in a fight that left former Minnesota State-Mankato football player Isaac Kolstad with severe brain injuries. Nelson eventually pleaded guilty to to misdemeanor fifth-degree assault and avoided jail time.
“I think it’s human nature and fair to question decisions such as these, but there was a lot of forethought and deliberation about our willingness to allow Phil to join our program as a walk-on,” East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill said, according to Star News Online. “He did not make a good decision, but has taken responsibility and performed community service, which included cautioning kids about avoiding bad situations.
“It is my belief the support and leadership core of our football program can help enable him to become the man we know he can be.”
Nelson threw for 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions over his two years at Minnesota. He also rushed for nearly 550 yards and 6 touchdowns.
During Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last week, Gophers starting quarterback Mitch Leidner said he hadn't spoken with Nelson in a while but hoped he was "doing alright," according to the Asbury Park Press.