Jordy Nelson may have thought he was getting a week off from offseason workouts by going on the “Tailgate Tour,” but Wisconsin’s top prep sprinters are keeping him in shape instead.

For the second straight day, Nelson was challenged to a footrace in a school gymnasium on a surprise tour stop. Wednesday’s race was at West Salem High School against Brandon Heilman, a member of the Division 2 state champion 4x100-meter relay team last year, and Byron Neal, an individual medalist in the 100 meters in 2011.

“I think high school kids just like to compete,” Nelson said. “They want to compete against a professional athlete. It’s fun.

“They were pretty fast. I haven’t seen the video, but I think it was a photo finish. They might have actually got me.”

Nelson is on his second “Tailgate Tour,” having gone three years ago following his rookie season. After 1,263 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011, he’s a little more recognizable to the fans around the state this time.

At West Salem, the “Tailgate Tour” contingent of Nelson, Mason Crosby and Charlie Peprah, plus alumni William Henderson, Larry McCarren and Marco Rivera, continued the discussion that began Tuesday at Omro High School about bullying.

It’s a serious topic, both locally and nationally, but the players managed to bring a little levity to the discussion when they spotted some Chicago and Minnesota apparel in the crowd.

“We had to give them a hard time,” Nelson said. “After we talked about bullying, then we bullied some kids about being Bears and Vikings fans.”

Joking aside, Nelson was truly humbled by the tour stop on Tuesday afternoon at the Tomah VA Medical Center. He spoke with one soldier as young as 24 and others who were Vietnam War veterans, an “eye-opening” experience that gave new meaning to putting a smile on someone’s face.

“These guys have had surgeries or struggled with all sorts of illnesses, and you just want to take their mind off what they’re going through or the pain they’re having, give them peace of mind for a little while, as well as their families,” Nelson said.

“We tried to thank them as much as possible. You can’t do it in words, what they’ve done for us and the way they’ve sacrificed. They’ve been wounded over there, put a lot on the line, and they have a lot of buddies that might not have made it back or are in worse shape. You try to thank them and show them your appreciation, but it won’t ever be enough.”

Another military stop is slated for Wednesday, at the 115th Fighter Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard in Madison. The day will conclude with a tailgate party at the Alliant Center in Madison to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

“It’s great,” Nelson said. “We’re having a good time on the bus, and it’s great to get out in the community and help raise money for these charities.”

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