BILLS CAMP: Shawn Nelson is big and fast and could be the best tight end the Bills have had in awhile.


 

Growing up in Louisiana, Shawn Nelson, like so many of his friends, was a fan of the New Orleans Saints.


On the biggest day of his football career, though, Nelson was ecstatic when he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the fourth round of last April’s draft, the 121st pick overall.


It couldn’t have made the tight end happier because he now was going to get a chance to play alongside one of his favorite players — Terrell Owens, whose career Nelson followed as a young football fan.


Nelson joined the Bills on Saturday after signing with the team the day before the start of training camp.


“I’m just excited to be out here and ready to work. I’m doing what I should and I will work hard like my father did,” Nelson said. “We have the hard part out of the way, so now it’s time to go to work.”


Nelson gives the Bills a tall target (6-foot-5) at tight end and another weapon in the passing game. He also provides plenty of size as a blocker (240 pounds) and should be able to used in the slot with his 4.52 speed in the 40.


“He’s very talented and has a lot of skills,” said Charlie Coiner, Bills tight ends coach. “He’s a big strong kid. We are hoping that we can establish him as a receiver first and then get him blocking up front.”


Nelson has modeled himself after Owens since high school. TO was one of the first players Nelson reached out to in camp on Saturday.


“It’s making camp go a lot smoother because I am learning from him,” Nelson said. “I watch him, and I try to learn from him and I try to run my routes the same way he did. He helps me out a lot.”


Nelson will join Derek Fine and Derek Schouman in the hopes of reviving the tight end position in Buffalo. The position has lacked a solid contributor since Jay Riemersma left the team in 2002.


The Bills have tried plenty of different players at the position but none has been a factor in the passing game. Dave Moore, Mark Campbell and Michael Gaines are among the tight ends that have come and gone with little fanfare this decade.


Last year illustrated the team’s problems at the position when Schouman, Fine and Robert Royal combined for 68 receptions and just three touchdowns.


“It’s a personal goal of mine,” Nelson said about helping turn around the team’s fortunes at tight end. “Like I said, I’ll just come out and work hard and I know if I do that, then everything will take care of itself. I had mentioned that I want to take that starting role.”


Nelson comes to Buffalo after a strong career at the University of Southern Mississippi. He started 47 games and caught 157 passes in four years with the Golden Eagles including a school record 53 his senior season.


Last year displayed Nelson’s potential as an every-down tight end. Along with being able to line up as a receiver in the slot, he caught 20 passes inside the red zone.


“I got to see Shawn a little bit throughout OTAs and he’s a real smooth receiver,” Schouman said. “I’m excited to see what he can do for our offense.”


Nelson is the first cousin of Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. The two will face off for the first time in the NFL Dec. 13 when Buffalo travels to Kansas City.


Nelson is already excited about the opportunity to face his former favorite team, the Saints, in week three. Don’t expect the rookie to be star struck.


“I’m a Bill now,” he said. “I have to focus on what is in front of me.”


Bryan Sullivan can be reached at (585) 394-0770 ext. 273 or bsullivan@messengerpostmedia.com.