Ex-Texans team captain, starting corner Steven Nelson retires

Veteran NFL cornerback Steven Nelson, a team captain and key member of the Texans' AFC South championship squad last season, told KPRC 2 he is retiring from the NFL after nine NFL seasons.

Nelson intercepted a career-high five passes last season, including an 82-yard interception return for a touchdown in a blowout AFC wild-card playoff game victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The former Kansas City Chiefs third-round draft pick from Oregon State and Warner Robins, Ga., native said Sunday that he is retiring to spend time with his wife, Monica, who is pregnant, and family and pursue his various business ventures. That includes a livestock farm in Montgomery County, his Corner Suite Podcast and other pursuits. Nelson emphasized that he’s leaving the game on his own terms, making the choice to hang up his football cleats at this time.

“Retirement, after thinking it over and having some talks with my family, I think it’s time for me to take a step back and spend more time with my family,” Nelson said in a telephone interview. “We’re expecting a newborn this coming month and I wanted to devote all of my time and energy to that and various business ventures off the field. I’m extremely proud of what I was able to do in the game of football.

“Coming from a small town without a lot of resources, having to go to junior college, making it out of there to go to Oregon State, which was across the country from my family, going through a lot of trials and tribulations to get to where I am today and to be able to persevere and make it this far. I’m extremely proud of my legacy and my career.”

Nelson, who turned 31 in January, was a starter for the Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles before joining the Texans in 2023 and playing for them for the past two seasons. In 130 career games with 115 starts, Nelson recorded 13 career interceptions, 87 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, one sack, 456 tackles and 11 tackles for losses. He intercepted four passes last season and allowed just one touchdown pass.

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“I think I’ll be remembered, mostly by my teammates, the guys that I played with and put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears with. as a leader and somebody that not only tries to lead by by words, but through my actions,” Nelson said. “Being a true pro and doing everything the right way.”

Multiple NFL teams, including the Texans, Las Vegas Raiders, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams, Washington Commanders and Miami Dolphins made prospective contract offers or serious inquiries about signing Nelson this offseason when his two-year contract expired with Houston, according to several general managers and league sources. However, Nelson made the choice to instead step away from the game at this time for family and business reasons.

Nelson did not entirely close the door on potentially resuming his career at some point down the road. At this time, though, he intends to retire. From the 2015 draft class, Nelson was the 14th cornerback selected after first-round draft picks Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson, Marcus Peters and Byron Jones, second-round picks Jalen Collins, Eric Rowe, Ronald Darby, Senquez Golson and Quinten Rollins and third-round selections D’Joun Smith, P.J. Williams, Alex Carter and Craig Mager. From that group, Nelson and Darby were the final two active players.

“I always will keep my body in shape and will always be ready if the right opportunity comes or I feel like the timing is right and my heart is into, I’ll do it,” Nelson said. “As of now, I think it’s best for me to take a step back and just enjoy my family.”

Nelson emphasized his gratitude for all of the people who helped him along the way, including several teammates, coaches, family and other mentors. That included Dallas Cowboys assistant head coach and secondary coach Al Harris, his former position coach with the Chiefs, former Oregon State position coach Rod Perry, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and several others, including various Texans coaches and personnel.

“I really appreciate the Texans and I’m proud of everything we accomplished together the past few years, building a winner and going from some very tough times to becoming a playoff team,” Nelson said. “I wish those guys all the luck in the world and I’ll be cheering them on. I hope my guys win it all.”

In two seasons with the Texans, playing for coaches DeMeco Ryans and Lovie Smith, Nelson started 31 games and recorded a combined six interceptions with 19 passes defensed, one forced fumble, one sack and 113 tackles.

“The relationship with Steven has been really good,” Ryans said last season. “Steven’s a true pro. I appreciate Steven. When he came back, I told everyone on the team when he came back and worked with us. I mean, one of our most consistent players, not only on the defense but on the team. He’s been a guy who’s been very consistent in his approach.

“That’s what leadership looks like. It’s being where you are supposed to be, doing your job, and handling things the proper way, and that’s what Steven has done, that’s what he’s put on display. That’s something for the young guys to look to and say, ‘Man, this is how a professional handles his business.’ And Steven has done that every day.”

Nelson Farms is a way of life for Nelson That involves a passion for nature, the farm lifestyle, the animals, including a few Black Angus cattle who live there, and growing a thriving business that requires an ultra-detailed strategy built around patience, planning and caring.

Except for when the sheep are making their presence known, the occasional feisty moments for Dusty, his 3-year-old daughter’s favorite pet, and the cows chiming in, it’s quiet.

“This is my peace,” Nelson told KPRC 2 during a tour of his sprawling acreage last year. “You don’t hear anything, for the most part. When I’m out here, it’s peaceful. I enjoy it. I don’t look at it as work. It’s therapeutic. I enjoy the scenery.

“It’s awesome, man. This is pretty much what I do outside of my day job. It’s been a fun experience. It keeps me busy. This is what I like to do.”

There are parallels between football and farming. Neither profession comes easily. Both require a strong work ethic and a foundation of a desire to do something great.

“It’s about patience,” Nelson said. “Things might not go the way you thing at first. The timing might not be suitable. You need a little patience and perseverance when you’re farming. Things do happen. Animals die. They get sick, things like that.

“Sometimes, they can escape. It’s about having perseverance, just like in football when things get tough. It is not a get-rich quick kind of thing, but there’s definitely a market for it. Whenever you’re in the livestock business, people have to eat. It’s about finding that right niche and it can be really good.”

Growing up in Georgia, Nelson became accustomed to living off the land. He has applied that as an avid hunter. He’s a bow-and-arrow man, mostly hunting for deer.

“I like to think of it as an art,” Nelson said. “It’s not as easy as what people might think. It takes a lot of patience. There’s a lot of failure. You’ve got to be pinpoint accurate. It’s a challenge.”

Whether it’s football or farming, Nelson takes everything seriously. It’s about enjoying his life, and living it on his terms with his family.

“You’ve got to have a passion for it,” Nelson said. “You’ve got to like animals. You’ve got to like the great outdoors. Myself, personally, I like animals. I spend more time outside than I do in my house.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

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