SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Cory Nelms ran off the field in the middle of the San Francisco 49ers' practice Wednesday to go watch television. Don't worry, he had special permission.
Call it an Olympic moment.
The second-year cornerback cheered on girlfriend T'erea Brown in the final of the 400-meter hurdles from eight time zones away, watching the fellow American finish sixth in London after posting a personal best of 54.21 seconds in the semifinals. Brown ran the final in 55.07. Natalya Antyukh of Russia won in 52.70.
"It was exciting. Your heart is pumping out your chest," Nelms said after watching the final. "You don't know what's going to happen when that light goes off and you're just a spectator like everybody else.
"I'm definitely proud of her. I'm definitely sure she went out there and did her best. I'm thinking maybe it's been a long week. Peaking two times back to back, that's a lot on your body. Maybe that's all she had this year."
In many ways, this week has been a culmination of hard work for the couple.
Nelms is a former hurdler at the University of Miami, where he met Brown and walked on the football team. Nelms also won hurdles in the 60-meter indoor (2009) and 110-meter outdoor (2010) at the Atlantic Coast Conference championships.
Nelms signed with San Francisco as an undrafted free agent last year and spent the season on the practice squad, splitting time at cornerback and safety. He earned the Thomas Herrion Award, presented annually to a rookie or first-year player "who has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into a reality" in honor of Herrion, who collapsed and died after a 2005 exhibition game in Denver.
Now Nelms is looking to earn a spot on 53-man roster.
"Cory's a jack of all trades," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "We play him at corner and safety. We've kind of focused him at safety here primarily lately. But he's played both corner, and you guys also know that he's played some wide receiver in the past. So he's trying to make this team primarily as a safety, but also as a jack of all trades."
Nelms still has a love for track and stays close to the sport through his, well, new love.
He said he reached out to Brown even before she arrived as a freshman at Miami in 2007, the two started talking, working out together and "it just went on from there." The couple lives together in South Florida. Brown, now 22, visits the Bay Area during football season when she's not running track, which should keep her busy through September.
The 24-year-old Nelms still misses the sport. Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs joined him to watch some of the Olympic re-runs at night last week, and Nelms said he had flashbacks to his track days.
"I told him like, 'Man, if I wasn't playing football, I'd definitely be in London right now,'" Nelms said.
Nelms is too busy working on football to run hurdles anymore. He helped set up the course for Brown along with Miami track coach Amy Deem in the offseason, participating once just to see "if I still had it." He said Brown still can't beat him - but it's getting closer.
"Yeah, I still got it," he said. "She's definitely a lot faster than when I left."
Nelms is just happy that defensive backs coach Ed Donatell approached head coach Jim Harbaugh to excuse the cornerback from practice to watch the hurdles finals. He said he hadn't had a chance to talk to Brown just yet but planned to wish her well - and he believes she'll be a stronger contender at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
While he would've loved to be in London, Nelms said sharing the experience from more than 5,000 miles away was special.
"It's definitely incredible and I'm definitely proud of her," he said. "It was an experience for her and me both."
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