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The NFL's last UAB Blazer?

Speedy kick returner J.J. Nelson could be the last UAB Blazer drafted into the pros after the school's football program was shut down last year.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS -- J.J. Nelson has a chip on his shoulder. He's one of dozens of players at the 2015 NFL Combine, and every other Combine before this one, who's toting around extra baggage atop his clavicle. Everyone's favorite cliche aside, the receiver from the University of Alabama-Birmingham really does have something to prove, something beyond the what every other twentysomething in sweatpants in downtown Indianapolis is trying to prove.

Update: Read our NFL Draft scouting reports 2015 for the top prospects.

Nelson could be the last draftee in the NFL to call himself a UAB Blazer.

UAB announced in December that it was shutting down its football program, citing a lack of funds to keep it running. The news came after the Blazers, part of Conference USA, were bowl eligible for just the second time in the program's 19-year stretch in I-A/FBS play. Nelson and his fellow Blazers took another hit when they were not invited to play in a bowl game.

The chip on Nelson's shoulder might be more than just a thing players tell the media at the Combine.

"Some things you can't undo, and have to deal with the situation," Nelson said. "I try not to think about it."

For now, he doesn't have much time to think about it. Nelson's attention is focused on preparing for the draft and convincing teams that he has a place on their roster in spite of his 5'10, 156-pound frame. Nelson has an impressive roll of film from his time at UAB, where he was one of the nation's top kick returners.

Nelson led the nation with four kick return touchdowns. His 843 yards on kick returns was the seventh best total in college football last season. His 277 punt return yards were the third most of any C-USA player.

He gives most of the credit for his special teams success to his teammates and coaches.

"It really goes back to great coaching and great schemes," he said. "None of that would have happened without it. That puts the guys on the field to help me make plays."

As for his role in amassing all those yards, he said it goes back to "just being myself, being explosive, taking my cut, hitting the hole and not let the kicker tackle you."

He also happens to be fast, capable of posting 40 times in the 4.3 range that still turns heads among NFL scouts (he led all receivers with a 4.28). Nelson's speed puts him in the running for one of the fastest players at the Combine, a chance he would never have had without UAB.

"It was probably the best decision I ever made," Nelson said of choosing to be Blazer, "not being heavily recruited, I wasn't a five-star and didn't have many scholarships. For me to be at the NFL Combine, possibly being drafted and on an NFL team ... it's kind of crazy.

"It's going to feel great. I know that the Blazer Nation will be just as excited as I am. Hopefully one day I'll be able to say it."

If Nelson does get to the NFL, he's taking UAB with him.