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ASU’s Robert Nelson: I’m the hardest critic on myself

TEMPE, Ariz. — With hard work comes success, and with success comes recognition.

Robert Nelson is reaping the benefits of that hard work, first on the field and now off the field.

“I was surprised. I smiled about it, but I can’t stay stuck on that,” he said in reference to being named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

“I was happy for one day and now it’s back to the grind. It’s a new mindset. Why not get Pac-12 Player of the Week this week? Why not? You can’t dwell on last week and Saturday because it’s over with. It’s about building every week.”

Nelson, in recent weeks, has built quite a foundation, one made from interceptions.

He picked off Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion twice, returning one 23 yards for a touchdown. He picked off Travis Wilson the week prior at Utah.

“He’s really had two of the most critical plays in the last two games,” head coach Todd Graham said. “He’s playing phenomenal.”

There was also the fourth quarter interception at Washington State. And don’t forget the interception he had to start the second half against Colorado.

That’s five interceptions in the past five games.

They’ve come in bunches for the Sun Devils’ starting cornerback.

“It’s the defense,” he said Tuesday. “They’re getting to the quarterback. The linebackers are getting to the quarterback. The d-line: Will Sutton, Davon Coleman, Gannon (Conway), Jaxon Hood, Chris Young; when they get to the quarterback like that, the (quarterback) is going to throw the ball up quick. That allows me to adjust to the ball faster than the wide receiver does and get into position.”

Overall, Nelson leads the team with six interceptions, the most since safety Troy Nolan had six in 2007. There are three, possibly four games remaining, meaning he may not be done adding to his total.

“It’s never enough. It’s never enough,” Nelson said. “When I came into the spring I set a goal. I wrote my goals on my mirror. I put the most impossible goals ever. I said I wanted 15 interceptions. I wanted 100 tackles, 30 pass breakups; something that’s hard to reach so I can keep working and working and working to reach those goals.

“I’m the hardest critic on myself.”

In other words, complacency never enters the thought process, something he said he learned from Graham.

“Once you get comfortable in a place like that then you get lost,” Nelson said. “You get lost in being into yourself and being a selfish player. I would’ve been a selfish guy if I came out here (at practice) and slacked today. If I was like, ‘OK, I’m Pac-12 Player of the Week. I don’t need to this. I don’t need to do that.’ Why not get better, like I said before, to be the Pac-12 Player of the Week again and work harder.”