Philip Nelson

Photo/Gerry Broome

East Carolina QB Kurt Benkert to transfer with two years eligibility

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East Carolina quarterback Kurt Benkert will pursue a transfer to end his college football career at another program, East Carolina announced Monday. Benkert is scheduled to graduate from East Carolina this spring, which will make him eligible to compete right away at another FBS program this fall according to NCAA graduate transfer rules. It was not announced where Benkert will transfer.

“I am saddened to announce that I am transferring from East Carolina University,” Benkert said in a statement released by ECU. “I am very blessed for the opportunity that ECU has given me in obtaining my degree, and am forever thankful for the support from such great coaches, teammates, faculty and fans. This was a very tough decision that came from a lot of sleepless nights and conversations from those close to me. With that being said, I feel it is in my best interest to explore other options for graduate school. Thank you again Pirate Nation for the support throughout the last three years, it was never unnoticed and I will forever be grateful for it.”

Benkert was lost for the 2015 season to a right knee injury. With Benkert unable to play for the Pirates, Blake Kemp ended up being East Carolina’s top quarterback with 2,658 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. The Pirates now have four quarterbacks on the roster, including Philip Nelson, who was dismissed from Rutgers after a transfer from Minnesota amid some serious legal trouble). Nelson is the likely leading candidate for the starting job for East Carolina.

East Carolina gives Ex-Gophers, Ex-Rutgers QB Philip Nelson one more chance

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When East Carolina opened spring practice, it did so with one quarterback looking to turn his college career around. Philip Nelson, the former Minnesota quarterback that once transferred to Rutgers only to be dismissed, will join the Pirates as a walk-on this season. East Carolina confirmed his addition to the fall camp roster.

Nelson transferred from Minnesota to Rutgers in early 2014 shortly before being charged for felony assault following a bar brawl that left Division 2 football player Isaac Kolstad (Minnesota State-Mankato)  in critical condition. Following his arrest in May 2014, Rutgers cut ties with Nelson by dismissing him from the program. Nelson later pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. Now, it appears, East Carolina is willing to give him another opportunity at the FBS level.

So, why would ECU head coach Ruffin McNeil willingly welcome a player with this kind of character issue hovering above him? McNeil feels Nelson has paid his due by taking responsibility for his actions and suggests Nelson will be surrounded by the kind of character that will allow for Nelson to continue rehabilitating his own flaws.

“I think it’s human nature and fair to question decisions such as these, but there was a lot of forethought and deliberation about our willingness to allow Phil to join our program as a [walk-on],” McNeill said in a story published by Wilmington Star News. “He did not make a good decision, but has taken responsibility and performed community service, which included cautioning kids about avoiding bad situations. It is my belief the support and leadership core of our football program can help enable him to become the man we know he can be.”

McNeil better hope he is right with Nelson, and Nelson should feel fortunate there was another door open to play FBS football somewhere in the country. Nelson had two opportunities to make something of himself at the FBS level already, and few get a third chance to prove something. With Kolstad’s football days over, no player in the country should feel as fortunate to be playing college football this season as Nelson.

Ex-Gopher, ex-Rutgers QB Philip Nelson will NOT be a S. Alabama QB

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South Alabama was supposed to be the place quarterback Philip Nelson would attempt to get back on track on the college football field, but that will no longer be the case. Nelson will not be a part of the South Alabama football program this fall, which means he is still searching for another football program (his third in two years) to give him a chance at a fresh start.

In response to a requested status update from The Star Tribune, South Alabama Athletics Director Brian Fremund told the Minnesota paper “he will not be a member of the University of South Alabama football program. He remains a recruitable student-athlete, however, so no further comment may be made by members of the athletic department and coaching staff at this time.”

Nelson was arrested in May of 2014 due to his connection in an assault in a Minnesota bar. The incident left former Division 2 football player Isaac Kolstad in critical condition at the time. Nelson transferred to Rutgers in January of 2014 and dismissed shortly after being charged for his involvement in the bar fight. Nelson pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

Ex-Gopher, Rutgers QB Philip Nelson to start over at S. Alabama

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Whether or not you are of the belief that he deserves it, Philip Nelson is getting a second chance at an FBS playing career.

According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report from late this past week, Nelson’s father has confirmed that his son has moved on to South Alabama and will play for the Sun Belt program in 2015.  For what it’s worth, USA has yet to confirm the quarterback’s addition to its roster.

When it does, though, it may have some explaining and/or spinning to do.

In May of last year, Nelson, then a Rutgers Scarlet Knight, was arrested in connection to a vicious assault outside of a Mankato, Minn., bar. Nelson was ultimately charged with first- and third-degree assault, both felonies, in an incident that left the victim, former Div. II football player Isaac Kolstad, hospitalized and fighting for his life.

The Kolstad family had released a statement at one point a year ago confirming that the 24-year-old Kolstad, who is married and has a young daughter, was on life support and had a portion of his brain removed after allegedly being kicked in the head by Nelson and punched by another male who is facing charges as well.  Kolstad, who Nelson’s attorney had accused of throwing a sucker punch that triggered the fight, is making steady progress from his injuries.

Nelson ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges earlier this year and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and credited for serving two days in jail.  It was concluded by a prosecution witness that the other male charged had caused Kolstad’s brain injury, which led to a plea agreement that also included a $300 fine.

In January of last year, Nelson transferred from Minnesota to Rutgers.  He was dismissed by the Scarlet Knights shortly after being charged in connection to the beating.

In 2012 and 2013, Nelson, who was a three-star member of the Gophers’ 2012 recruiting class, started 16 games.  Nine of those starts came as a true sophomore in a 2013 season in which he led the run-heavy Gophers in passing yards (1,306) and passing touchdowns (nine).  He was also third in rushing yards (364) and rushing touchdowns (six).

Prior to moving on to USA, Fresno State, Georgia and Ole Miss were in the mix for his services.  Nj.com wrote that “the SEC schools moved on as the legal process dragged.”

Nelson will now have two years of eligibility remaining.

Former Rutgers & Minnesota QB Philip Nelson dodges prison

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Former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson will not have to serve any prison time for his involvement in a brutal attack that led to the injury of a Minnesota State football player. Nelson was instead sentenced to 100 hours of community service and was credited for serving two days in jail.

Isaac Kolstad was left in coma after being allegedly being attacked by Nelson and kicked in the head. Following the incident, Nelson was booted from the Rutgers team shortly after he had transferred from Minnesota. Kolstad has since made progress in his recovery in his rehab from his brain injury.

Nelson agreed to a plea that would result in a misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for pleading guilty.