There is no mystery about what type of football player he is. That's easy to determine. You don't become the first offensive lineman selected (No. 6 overall) and one of the top three non-quarterbacks taken in last spring's draft by being soft. Nelson is a nasty, tough football player who shows no mercy for anybody he faces.
The mystery is: Who is Quenton Nelson when he's not on the football field? This is a mystery Nelson doesn't want many to figure out, aside from close friends, family and teammates.
Does Nelson have a lighter side to him?
"I don't know if he does," Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said, laughing. "I walked by him the other day. I was just messing around with him. I tapped him on the shoulder and walked the other way. I did it on the way back and he smiled at me with a slight crack with a look of, 'OK, I guess I have to smile at him now.'"
What does Nelson do for fun?
"Hang out with the O-linemen or go fishing if I were by myself," he said.
"No, not really," Nelson said.
Well, OK then.
Offensive linemen are often the quietest position group with some of the quirkiest interests. Nelson takes quiet to another level. You probably wouldn't see him taking part in the ESPN Body Issue like teammates Anthony Castonzo and Jack Mewhort did in 2015.
Nelson's also not rude or standoffish. He's the opposite, in fact. He's very polite when he talks. Just don't expect Nelson to say anything outlandish that will grab headlines. He's a person who is businesslike, because football is his job and he never takes it for granted.
"He's just not going to be a great quote," Nelson's father, Craig, said. "He doesn't like the attention. He'll do anything to get out from an interview. He's not comfortable talking about himself. He will not be a great interview for you. He could care less about all the bulls--- about being the No. 6 pick. In his eyes his only job is to be on time, shut up, listen and learn. You can't be talking and listening at the same time. He's only worried about getting better and [not] letting his teammates down."
That only-get-better mentality for Nelson started at a very young age when Craig sat down his two sons, Quenton and Connor, and gave them a dose of reality.
Craig held up a piece of paper and told his boys that many kids play Pop Warner football. Craig then tore the paper in half and told them that many play in high school. Then he tore off more paper to leave maybe a third in his hand and said that's the number who play college football.
Then there was the eye-opener for the two brothers, six years apart in age.
Craig ripped the paper a final time, and all that was left in his hand was a tiny piece showing the percentage of players who reach the NFL.
"I pounded into my kids pretty good that their chances were pretty slim," Craig said. "The key was for them to understand."
Quenton didn't run from the challenge when told he had a minuscule chance of making it to the NFL. He took his father's challenge on -- the same way he takes on a 375-pound defensive lineman -- with no fear.
He did it at Red Bank Catholic (New Jersey) High School. He did it at Notre Dame after telling his father that if he couldn't beat out any of the eight upperclassmen in front of him as a redshirt freshman then his NFL dreams would be "moot," according to Craig. And he's already turned plenty of heads while practicing in pads during Colts training camp.
"The best way to describe Q is that he's a 340-pound Navy Seal," said David Ballou, who was Notre Dame's co-director of football strength and conditioning last year. "He's completely driven. He's about every single thing that encompasses [what] you would want to radiate throughout your team in terms of a work ethic. The kid is quiet. That's the best part about him. He's a quiet assassin. He's not a guy I would think has to thump his chest and yell and let everyone know he's in the room. You know about him being in there, the energy he radiates from his work ethic. You don't have to know he's in there by his mouth."
"I don't know if he'll ever show the general public and I don't know if he'll ever show many people, but anybody who gets close to him will know he's funny, he's very personable." Colts O-line coach Dave Deguglielmo on Quenton Nelson
Colts offensive line coach Dave Deguglielmo has 13 years of NFL coaching experience. In his eyes, Nelson is the most NFL-ready of all the rookie offensive linemen he's coached.
"He's as well-prepared for ... transition to this level of any guy I've ever been associated with as a rookie," Deguglielmo said. "I don't even look at him like a rookie, because physically he doesn't play like a rookie, he doesn't move like a rookie. He doesn't work like a rookie, he doesn't talk like a rookie. He's a little bit naïve about some things.
"He's naïve because some of the pressure and length of the season and stuff like that, but we'll handle that. But right now he's operating like he's done this for years. He has a personality and it'll come out eventually. I don't know if he'll ever show the general public, and I don't know if he'll ever show many people, but anybody who gets close to him will know he's funny, he's very personable. He's very conscious of his teammates and he's not a loner."
Nelson might not seem like a rookie, but he knows the pecking order of how things work in the offensive line meeting room. He sits, listens, learns and says very little when not talked to. Nelson's desire to play to the "echo" of the whistle will likely frustrate many opponents, but it's what the Colts need on the offensive line after years of struggles.
"He definitely came in personality-wise and adapted to the room," center Ryan Kelly said. "That's the funny thing about the NFL, you don't get to be in charge of the room you come into. So you have to pretty much fit in. He's been great with that. Just a tough worker. Hasn't really said a whole lot. I think that's the best way to go with a rookie, just kind show what you can do on the field before you start talking."
Nelson's teammates say he has a "dry sense of humor." Nelson seems to always draw a laugh from his teammates with his eating style. He tries to make everything -- everything -- into a sandwich, like chicken, mashed potatoes and bread.
"It's hilarious," Mewhort said. "And you just get a shoulder shrug from him. He is one of a kind. He doesn't have the type of sense of humor that's going to shine when he's at the podium when he's talking. He's real dry. He's the type of guy that if you're around him all day, he makes you laugh but he's not trying to. It's kind of the way that he's carrying himself. His little mannerisms. He's set in his ways. He's Quenton, that's the easiest way to describe him."
The Colts will take a quiet and rather reserved Quenton Nelson as long as he dominates at his position for years to come.
"You want to coach a great talent who is humble and keeps his head down and works," Deguglielmo said. "I don't have to lead him around by his hand. I just tell him that this needs to be done, and he can get it done. I teach him like I teach Matt Slauson, who has been doing it for 11 years."