Howe: Nelson Faces the Music

Some athletes run from controversy. Arvell Nelson met it head on Tuesday, speaking with the media after a trying week. HN.com columnist Rob Howe spoke with the freshman and was impressed with his ability to take responsibility for his actions.

Arvell Nelson gets a gold star for the day.

In the last decade of covering Iowa football, I've seen guys run and hide from controversy and the media. Not Arvell. He stood there in front of us on Tuesday and took the bullets.

Iowa's backup quarterback made news last week for having his name on an arrest warrant and photos on Facebook that called into question his character. These weren't the type of headlines you paste in the scrapbook.

Not only did Nelson show up to answer questions on Tuesday, but he was the first one there. He welcomed the inquiries.

That gave me hope for this kid. Standup guys have a pretty good track record in the Kirk Ferentz Era. The coach backed up his player last Friday.

"I think he is a real good guy," Ferentz said of the redshirt freshman. "He has made some poor decisions in terms of judgment. It's more negligence with him. We are working through that too. I think he will be fine. He needs to grow up, and he knows that."

Apparently, Nelson forgot to show up for a court appearance, thus facilitating a warrant. He cleared it up quickly.

"It was just a big misunderstanding with the law," said Nelson, who was cited for driving with a suspended license and not having proof of insurance. "When I got pulled over, I didn't think I was going to have to appear in court. It turns out I had to."

There's a reason you have to be 35 to run for president. Eighteen year olds are a little goofy and often forgetful.

Nelson arrived late to catch a plane for a road game last year and was left behind. When he's 40, like me, he'll arrive at the airport two hours early and drink a bunch of coffee.

We certainly shouldn't completely brush Nelson's transgressions aside. Sometimes these smaller issues lead to bigger issues. Coach Ferentz is issuing some in-house punishment to drive that point home.

Last week, some HN message board posters, sports radio callers and guys on bar stools lumped Nelson in with his teammates Dominique Douglas and Anthony Bowman. The latter two were arrested for unauthorized use of a credit card. All three were in Facebook photos that steamed some of the Iowa fan base, including AD Gary Barta.

It was quite a leap.

"It was kind of tough," Nelson said of last week. "You get phone calls from people back home, getting talked to by teammates, talked to by the coaches. It was tough, but it was a learning experience. You have to think before you do stuff."

Nelson said that he understood why people were down on him for photos showing him with cash and liquor bottles.

The photos were posted on Nelson's Facebook page last summer shortly after he arrived at Iowa, he said. He never thought about them again until last week.

"People will look at it as a negative. They look at you as a bad person," Nelson said. "I just plan on playing hard, working hard and trying to get that behind me."

Nelson took the first step in answering questions on Tuesday. He knew he would be grilled about his behavior and that of his teammates, with whom he has spoken.

"We came in here and I found a few friends to hang with and Dominique and Bow were two of them," Nelson said. "Of course I'm going to talk to them and still be their friends. Everybody makes mistakes.

"It's tough for them. They were planning on playing a lot of minutes. They're just trying to bounce back. They're just trying to get this over with and get back here."

Time will tell if Douglas and Bowman are welcomed back. Nelson knows his margin for error has shrunk due to his actions.

"I just said to him that you can't really let that get to you," starting quarterback Jake Christensen said. "You made a mistake and try to not let things like that happen anymore. You just want to move on from it.

"Obviously everything that happens from here on, which God forbid nothing does, is going to be magnified because of the situation we're in now. He knows he made a mistake. I'm confident he won't do it again."

I told Jake that Nelson seemed like a good kid. Jake smiled and concurred.

"Most of us are good kids," he said. "I wouldn't say there are any guys on the team that are bad kids. Sometimes they just make bad decisions."

Nelson now can focus on winning the back-up quarterback position. He is battling classmate Ricky Stanzi for the spot.

"It's going good," Nelson said. "Both me and Rick are going into practice with the same mindset, to get better and make the team better.

"I need to make decisions quicker."

It also seems like he's ready to make better ones.