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Steelers WR David Nelson's Choice: Foundation or Football

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Thankfully for Nelson, the Steelers allow him to devote time to both.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

For all the talk about the importance of character in the NFL, there are times virtuous players must make a choice between pursuing their football dreams and other noble pursuits. Take the case of Myron Rolle. He hurt his NFL prospects by accepting a Rhodes scholarship to study medical anthropology at Oxford. Rolle's draft report mentioned his decision in an unflattering light: "Rolle missed entire 2009 season studying in Oxford (Rhodes scholarship), raising questions about his long-term desire to play football." He wasn't out with an injury. He wasn't out because of a crime. He was out because of a Rhodes scholarship, and that ended up being a red flag for NFL scouts.

Myron Rolle's predicament is not unique. Pittsburgh Steelers WR David Nelson had a vice similar to that of Rolle. Here, I'm using the NFL definition of "vice": Anything, positive or negative, that a player could prioritize over football. Nelson did not take a year off to study at Oxford, but he was devoting quite a bit of time an energy to his foundation, i'mME, whose mission is to serve the orphans of Haiti.

Nelson said, "I'm hearing questions about my commitment because I'm outspoken about my nonprofit and I do a lot to make it successful. Rather than posting pictures of me at the gym (which I go to every day), I choose to use my social media and interview opportunities to showcase our organization's amazing work. They don't think my head's in the game, but it's all guess work."

Such poor character out of Nelson. And, again, I'm using the NFL's definition of "character." To the NFL, character means you get on the field, play your heart out, and make a lot of money for your team and the league by being All Football All the Time.

Guess what? Nelson isn't All Football All the Time. He is more than football. He uses some of his time to play football in the NFL, and the rest of his time to save lives and make a difference for scores of orphans. His lifestyle apparently resulted in an ultimatum: Football or the foundation. "While I'm grateful for the opportunities the NFL has given me over the years, I'm confused by what I've recently been given: an ultimatum," wrote Nelson on his blog.

Nelson has tallied 10 touchdowns and 138 receptions over his five seasons in the NFL. His career has included time with the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and New York Jets. The Steelers, who according to team Chaplain Chad Johnson, consider themselves a service organization, have welcomed Nelson with open arms.

Having joined one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, Nelson faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. He has shown flashes of brilliance during his NFL career, but has not had a particularly productive season since 2011.

"I grew up in a family that loves and supports me whether I fail or succeed," Nelson said. "I believe every child should have that opportunity."  When the Steelers signed Nelson on August 12, the gave him the opportunity to succeed on the field while pursuing his true calling- helping the orphans of Haiti.