By Dave Hart

MUSKEGON – West Michigan Ironmen fans have quickly learned that Rony Nelson loves to terrorize opposing quarterbacks, andLSJ Logo incert has been a defensive force for the team all season.

What they may not know is that Nelson had a chance to play with the Cleveland Gladiators in the elite American Football League earlier this season.

Ironmen Coach Ty Lynk was certain that Nelson would be gone following the team’s lone preseason game last month.

Nelson had five sacks in that contest, a sure sign that he was ready to return to the top league in indoor football, where he started his professional career.

Rony Nelson (5) sacks Chicago's QB last weekend.

Rony Nelson (5) sacks Chicago’s QB during the Ironmen victory last weekend.

But Nelson decided to pass up a chance and stay with the Ironmen, because he like the way things were shaping up with the team.

“I made a home and a commitment to play here in Muskegon,” said Nelson, a defensive lineman from Miami, Florida. “I wanted to help out, stay with my (teammate) brothers and win a championship.”

Nelson has played a big role in helping the first-year Ironmen to a 2-1 start to the season. The team will look for its third victory on Saturday when it hosts the River City Raiders at 7:05 p.m. at L.C. Walker Arena.

The Raiders are 3-0 and lead the American Indoor Football Mid-Western Division, one game ahead of the Ironmen. They defeated the Ironmen in St. Charles, Missouri in the first game of the regular season, 75-68.

West Michigan’s defense, which held the Chicago Blitz to 30 points last week (a low score for indoor football), will have to turn in a solid performance to slow down the Raiders.

Nelson is more than ready for another crack at River City.

“We are looking for redemption, not revenge,” Nelson said. “We beat ourselves in St. Charles and we are angry that we are not undefeated.

“If we don’t earn their respect, then we’re going to take respect by playing Ironmen football, one play at a time.”

Nelson started out as a soccer player during his high school days in Miami. He joined the football team as a kicker, and discovered that he loved to make big hits when playing special teams. His coach moved him to linebacker and he thrived at the position.

He later attended Yuba College in Marysville, California, where he amassed 39 sacks in two seasons. Nelson transferred to Iowa State, where he had eight sacks in two seasons for the Cyclones.

He started his professional career in 2013, playing for the Iowa Barnstormers of the AFL. He spent the following two seasons in Minnesota, playing for the Bemidji Axemen of the Indoor Football League.

Nelson planned on returning to the Axemen this season, but the team folded, leaving him unemployed.

Lynk noticed his availability and acted quickly to bring him to the Ironmen.

“He was a key guy I wanted to pick up,” Lynk told Local Sports Journal. “He is the engine of our defense and we are very lucky he decided to stay.”

Nelson has lived up to expectations, registering six quarterback sacks in the first three games, including three in the team’s home opener against Northern Kentucky.

Sacks are huge in indoor football, a pass-happy game played on a 50-yard field where touchdowns come quickly and frequently.

The entire West Michigan defense frustrated  the Chicago offense last weekend with seven quarterback sacks. Nelson led the team with three and a half while Ryan Armstrong had two.

“We know we have the athletes defensively to get the job done,” Lynk said. “The key was to get (other defensive players) to transition from the outdoor game to indoors.”

Nelson only had one sack against Chicago, but it was a big hit that knocked Blitz starting quarterback Demetrious Jones out of the contest.

“I don’t like quarterbacks,” he said. “They are prima-donna pretty boys and I like to show them I am the man.

“I lick my chops when I get a chance to go after QBs and I want every QB to know who I am throughout the league.”