When ESPN The Magazine contributing writer Anna Katherine Clemmons spent June 24 with Green Bay Packers star receiver Jordy Nelson on a Kansas farm, she could not have forecast how popular the resulting story would be.
Within 48 hours of its publication on ESPN.com this week, the story (which also appears in The Mag’s College Football Preview Issue) has registered 58,000 social media shares. On Facebook, it was trending in the Top 10 while Business Insider, USAToday.com and a host of other media outlets also featured the piece.
It seems fans in and outside Packer Nation are fascinated with Nelson’s 12-hour summer work days on a farm in spite of his reported $39 million contract. Front Row asked Clemmons what farming with Nelson was like and for her reaction to the story’s popularity.
Are you at all surprised to see the piece trending?
Not at all, although I didn’t think it’d be quite as popular as it is, nor that the story would spread so quickly. I had pitched this idea to The Magazine several years ago and we had tried to pursue it through a few different conceits. Offseason jobs for pro athletes aren’t entirely unique but the fact that an athlete as high-profile as Jordy loves to work so hard in the offseason, enduring hard physical labor in addition to his football workouts, was interesting. I think fans love seeing the “other” side of athletes, particularly when it’s something they can relate to; in Jordy’s case, it also shows how much his upbringing has shaped who he is today.
How much “work” did you do helping out with chores? How much of his “12–hour day” did you spend with him?
I met with Jordy and the crew at his brother Mike’s farm at 9:30 a.m. after they’d already fed the cattle. Jordy rode with me to the field, which was a neighboring farm about 30 minutes away. When we pulled up to the field, we literally were in the middle of nowhere. No bathrooms, no houses, no shade – it was the true experience!
Jordy, his brother and the crew drove the combines for about eight hours that day. I rode several loops around the field with Jordy and also rode with his brother. Riding in the combine was actually fun; the perspective is awesome and the sheer volume of the wheat you’re cutting is pretty cool. Jordy was so laid-back; it’s always nice to talk to athletes outside of the locker rooms and clubhouses.