Somewhat lost in the chaos that was the eventual shuttering of the UAB football program was the stellar performance that Blazers wide receiver J.J. Nelson put together in his senior season. And Conference USA certainly took notice, naming him their special teams player of the year before he garnered first team All-American honors from various publications, including SBNation.
It's not hard to imagine that the story will end there, though.
There's always a market for kick and punt returners in the NFL. Devin Hester, especially at the early stages of his career, certainly set the standard for return specialists in this day and age. And while Nelson likely won't make the same immediate impact that Hester made in his first couple of seasons in the NFL, I'd have to think that there's at least one front office that may be willing to take a gander on him.
Nelson definitely has the talent (38.3 yards-per-kick return to go along with four KR touchdowns, both tops in FBS) and both that blazing speed and elusiveness which will be useful on Sundays. But he brings more than that to the table. While certainly not the top receiver in the country, Nelson hauled in 35 catches for 655 yards and four touchdowns (leading the Blazers in both departments) and finished with 2,273 receiving yards for his career, among the top outputs of all time in school history. He would certainly be merely a blip on the radar screen with his receiving skills alone.
Add on his special team skills, though, and the prospect of him, at the absolute worst, latching on as a undrafted free agent and being utilized almost exclusively in the return game isn't out of the question.
There's still a long time to go before pro days and the draft itself rolls around. But, from the way things look now, Nelson's name may stand to pop up on a few draft boards around the NFL in the coming weeks and months.