HOUSTON - Texans cornerback Robert Nelson’s heart is more than big enough for two.
While he works to make the Texans team and strives to become a starter in the NFL, he has already been very successful off the field in his own special way.
When Nelson was a junior at Arizona State he became the legal guardian of his nephew, Shakial Taylor.
“I’m from Lakeland, Fla,” Nelson said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. “It’s a bad area. I didn’t want my nephew to go through those things that I went through coming up. So I begged his mom and I begged my mom to let him come out to Arizona State with me, once I got a better opportunity in college after transferring from (Louisiana) Monroe.
“They didn’t want to do it, but I just expressed to them the opportunity I had at Arizona State.”
That opportunity did not include a lot of money to go with it. So the two struggled, but found a way to live.
“I had to stop some of the things I had to do to help someone else, and that’s what it’s about,” Nelson said.
Taylor was a bit more specific.
“It was a struggle,” Taylor said. “One summer we were working out like two times a day, but we were only eating noodles and burritos. We ate that every day, Top Ramen noodles and burritos. That was a struggle.
“We didn’t have enough money to go and buy what we wanted to eat, so we had to settle with that to get by.”
No matter how difficult things were at Arizona State, Nelson had his nephew in a much better environment than living in Lakeland, Fla.
My (older) brother, he’s actually in jail right now,” Nelson said. “It was easy to get in trouble. I saw that with my uncles, cousins, sister, brothers, everything.
“People were just dying left and right, and I really developed love for football and sports. So I had to get out of there, and I moved to Atlanta (Georgia), and I got a great opportunity. God just put his hands over me and blessed me, he truly has, to bless others as well.”
Nelson’s great opportunity came from the family of his future teammate with the Texans, cornerback A.J. Bouye.
His father, Steve, runs an AAU basketball program in Atlanta. The Bouyes made Nelson a part of the team, and then part of their family.
Shakial was already a member of Nelson’s family, but Robert wanted to do for his nephew what the Bouye’s did for him.
Taylor and his grandmother followed Nelson to Atanta, and then Taylor moved to Tempe, Arizona and put his life in his uncle’s hands.
“I’m glad that he accepted me because it changed my whole perspective on things, on life itself,” Taylor said.
“He had me working harder than I ever worked before. It taught me a lot at a young age. It helped me grow up at a young age, and figure out things on my own in order to succeed in life.”
Taylor received a scholarship to South Dakota State, but transferred to Mesa Community College in Arizona for his sophomore season, with hopes of landing at a bigger school for his final two years of eligibility.
“I just expressed to him, over and over, if I made it and I didn’t have the help that you had, you can make it,” Nelson said. “I had to teach the game to myself. He had a guy like me, already in the NFL to teach him these things, going from college to the NFL, and just continue to talk to him. He’s a better ballplayer than me right now.
“I talk to him like he’s a grown man. It’s tough love. Anything I give him, any money, any cleats, anything, if I let him drive my Smart car, he has to work hard. He has to show me his grades. He has to show me he’s improving. We send each other workout videos, and I might surprise him with $2-300, or I might get him some new cleats. I make him work for everything he gets so he can really appreciate it. “
Taylor said his uncle’s way of living made a huge impression on him.
“I learned if you really want something you got to work for it,” Taylor said. “Nothing comes easy. After my junior season of high school it really hit me. That’s when I really realized why he was working the way he was working. It motivated me to do the exact same thing, and that’s when my senior year came, I had a break-out year.
Taylor is very thankful his uncle cared enough to help him through an important stage of his life.
“I was like 16,” Taylor said. “I was at the age where I was still finding myself. I’m glad I got out of there before I got influenced by anything that was around me. Bringing me out here to Arizona State, he influenced me.
“When I came out here he was a junior at Arizona State. He was a young man taking care of another young man.”
Robert Nelson made a difference with his nephew, Shakial Taylor, that will last a lifetime.