The Nelson family focuses on doing their best — not besting others

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 11 2011 11:00 p.m. MDT

So what was it like for D.J. to try and follow generations of successful football players at Logan High? And was it difficult to be known as Riley's little brother?

"When I first walked into high school, that's what I was known as," said D.J. with a smile. "I didn't mind at all. I like Riley and I know it's nothing personal. I knew eventually I was going to have a chance to make a name for myself, and I took advantage of it. It didn't bother me at all because Riley is a good ball player and I consider that a compliment. Second, it's just I've always been known as that."

D.J. and Riley Nelson share more than just a similar playing style.

They both shared the starting quarterback job with a teammate last season. While D.J. shared time with Luke Falk (who transferred to a school in California but is now back in Logan), Riley and Jake Heaps shared BYU's starting job until an injury sidelined Riley for the remainder of the season.

As Logan's sole starter this year, D.J. is making a name for himself. He leads the state in touchdowns — 17 rushing and 28 passing — and the Grizzlies are undefeated and ranked No. 2 in 4A.

The same week that D.J. Nelson accepted a scholarship offer to USU, Riley, who began the year as a back up to Heaps, was inserted into the game in the third quarter with BYU trailing USU by 13 points.

The same night D.J. Nelson scored eight touchdowns in a rout of cross-town rival Sky View, Riley Nelson led that two-minute, 96-yard drive that meant another heartbreaking defeat for the Aggies.

Joni and Keith were in the stands watching D.J. and Chase play, but all around them people gave them updates about the BYU game and Riley's heroics.

Because Riley Nelson attended USU his freshman year, but then transferred to BYU after his mission, it might seem that many in Logan would harbor resentment toward Riley and or his family.

But most of the feedback the family gets is that people are generally happy to see a native son succeed.

"Riley is a Cache Valley boy," said Keith Nelson. "He's from here; he's a hometown boy. He'll always have a spot in his heart for Cache Valley and Utah State. We get a little out of hand with these rivalries. I'd like to think, in general, the valley feels that same way."

D.J. and his family were happy for Riley's success, but a little saddened that it came at the Aggies' expense.

"It was a weird feeling," said Chase. "He threw the touchdown pass to Marcus Matthews, and we love Marcus. I was happy for Riley, but I was gut-wrenchingly disappointed because I know the Aggies are amazing."

When Riley Nelson was criticized in the media and on message boards after announcing the transfer, the family made the decision not to read articles or comment boards without the endorsement of a trusted friends or family.

All of them have had moments of wanting to publicly defend Riley, but it's at his urging that they let it go. After all, his brothers point out, the people writing negative things about his brother do not know the real Riley Nelson.

In fact, it's knowing their brother that keeps them from shying away from comparisons. In fact, they both relish being linked to both him and their sister.

"I've always been proud of it," said Chase. "I'm proud of my brothers and my sister and looked at what they did and follow their examples."

Still, the expectations can feel less like flattery and more like pressure at times, right? Not at all D.J. and Chase insist. In fact, if they can't manage to live up to the expectations of those outside the family, they don't worry because they know how exactly how those inside the clan will react.

"No pressure because I think if something doesn't go my way, they're still going to be there for me," said Chase. In fact, what others see as pressure, he sees as something to aspire to.

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