Oak Grove native Nelson finds 'peaceful moment' at Pro Day Monday

By CAMAL PETRO,

Oak Grove native Picasso Nelson Jr. had a simple thought when he was moments away from running his 40-yard dash at Southern Miss’ Pro Day Monday.

“Why?”

The 40-yard dash has become synonymous with the buildup for aspiring NFL players. Former college players spend months preparing for an important 4 to 5 seconds in front of NFL scouts, and Nelson, along with a handful of other Southern Miss players taking part in the Pro Day, is no exception.

When Nelson puts his hands in the ground seconds before he’s about to take off, his mind is at ease.

“For me, I think that’s the most peaceful moment,” Nelson said. “I try to think about my ‘why’. Like, why am I here? What drives me to do what I’m doing? That’s the peaceful part.”

Nelson ran an unofficial 4.41 and a 4.42, but he claims to have run a 4.39 leading up to Monday.

“I didn’t run that (Monday), so I’m really still kind of mad about that,” Nelson said. “I thought I was going to do better at a lot of things, but that’s kind of my personality. But, I did OK today.”

Compared to most years, there weren’t too many scouts present. However, Nelson’s day was good enough for scouts from the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns to want a sit down with the defensive back.

The conversation centered on Nelson’s personal life and his upbringing. The scouts wanted to get know him a little better after his impressive Pro Day.

“It felt good talking to scouts for NFL teams,” Nelson said. “Obviously, that’s been a dream of mine for a long time, so Lord willing, things just keep getting better.”

Since the season ended, Nelson has been working out with his father, Piacsso Nelson Sr., as well as local trainer Sam Morris. Nelson Sr. knows what this process is like since he went through it in the late 1990s.

Nelson Sr. and Nelson Jr. put a big emphasis on the 40-yard dash, and both were happy with the times the younger Nelson put up. Now it’s time to get his body in shape for a potential invitation to an NFL camp.  

“We’re aiming for the sky, but we’ll see,” Nelson said. “(It’s been a dream) all my life.”

Another former Golden Eagles who participated in Southern Miss’ Pro Day was kicker Parker Shaunfield. The senior called his day “fairly average” since he had to battle windy conditions at M.M. Roberts Stadium. He showed off his leg on kickoffs, as well as regular placekicking.

Kicking in front of scouts compared to a stadium full of fans is the same for the 6-foot- kicker.

“Honestly, nothing is different for me,” Shaunfield said. “It may be a little bit easier. It’s not as much stress. If you miss it or don’t hit it as good as you want it, it’s not going to cost a loss of a game, or something like that. I pretty much try to look at it the same as anything else.”

Shaunfield was in Buffalo, New York, training with kicking coach Adam Tanalski before going out west to Arizona for a kicking combine. Since February, he was training in the Dallas area leading up to Pro Day.

He even had a kicking session with a Chicago Bears coach, too. The coach only wanted Shaunfield to kick eight or nine field goals and a few kickoffs because the coach had already done his homework on the Aledo, Texas, product.

“The only team I’ve had contact with was the Chicago Bears,” he said. “Their special teams coordinator came out to Aledo, my high school, and I had a private workout with them two weeks ago.

“It was a quick workout. Just enough for him to see me in person, really.”

As of Monday, that was the only contact he’s had with an NFL scout or coach, and he was hoping for a better turnout at Pro Day.