New York Giants: 15 G-Men who changed the game forever

Odell Beckham, New York Giants. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Odell Beckham, New York Giants. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
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New York Giants
Karl Nelson, New York Giants. Sgt. Slaughter. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) /

14 – Karl Nelson

The New York Giants are no strangers when it comes to cancer, especially in the early ’80s. First, it was linebacker Dan Lloyd in 1981. Popular running back Doug Kotar was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1982 and passed away just a year later. Then there was the inspirational John Tuggle who had to hang up his cleats after the 1983 season, having played just one year of the game he loved in the NFL. Tuggle passed away in 1986.

That’s why in 1987 Karl Nelson‘s cancer diagnosis seemed so grim. The big tackle was in for the fight of his life and it hadn’t gone well for others from the New York Giants organization. To add to the already bad prognosis, the NFL was on strike at the time, he had no health insurance. That didn’t stop the G-Men from supporting him.

Team owner Wellington Mara made an agreement with the players union to keep Nelson on the payroll and cover his bills during the work stoppage. Still, it was an arduous journey. When he finished his cancer treatment, the 6-6, nearly 300-pound tackle was a shell of his former self.

Nelson worked himself back into shape and played nine games the next year before his cancer came back. Although his playing career was over, his life wasn’t. Nelson became a local businessman and worked for the team as a radio analyst. He is here because he proved that football players can come back from cancer and thrive.

30 years later, Nelson looks fantastic.