A native of Artesia, N.M., Nelson came to UNM in 1966 after two years at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. He played for Bob King for two seasons, two of the best teams in school history.
The 1966-67 Lobos climbed to No. 3 in the nation, the highest ranking ever by a New Mexico team. In Nelson's senior season of 1967-68, UNM started 17-0, won the WAC title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Nelson led the Lobos in scoring at 19.5 points a game while shooting 82.2 percent from the free throw line. He was a Helms All-American in addition to being first team All-WAC.
Upon graduation, Nelson played professionally for two seasons in the ABA. Nelson has made a lasting civic contribution to New Mexico as well. He has served on numerous community boards, task forces and committees: regent to the New Mexico Military Committee; member of the Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors; chairman of the Hodgin Hall Lettermen's Room Construction; and president of the UNM Alumni Lettermen's Association.
In 1988, Nelson was selected as UNM's representative to the Western Athletic Conference 25th anniversary basketball team. He was inducted into the Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.