Nelson was born in Manhattan, Kansas, to Alan and Kim Nelson, farmers who lived in Riley and had season tickets to Kansas State football games. The Nelson farm, originally established by his great-great-grandfather who immigrated from Sweden, has been in the family for four generations.
Nelson attended Riley County High School in Riley, Kansas, and played football for the Falcons. During his senior year playing quarterback, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,029 yards and eight touchdowns. Nelson also rushed for 1,572 yards, averaging 9.8 yards per carry with 25 touchdowns. He was named Flint Hills Player of the Year by the Manhattan Mercury. In 2003, he played in the Kansas Shrine Bowl. In addition to football, he was an all-state basketball player, averaging 17.2 points per game his senior year for the Falcons.
Nelson was an outstanding track and field athlete, and won a national AAU championship in the 400 meters as a 10-year-old. In 2003, his senior year at Riley County High School, he won the state titles in Class 3A in the: 100 meters, with a time of 10.63 seconds; 200 meters, with a time of 21.64 seconds; 400 meters, with a time of 48.79; and long jump, with a leap of 7.00 meters.
Nelson attended Kansas State University, where he played for coach Bill Snyder's Wildcats football team from 2003 through 2005. When Snyder retired after the 2005 season, Nelson remained with Kansas State and played the rest of his college career (2006 and 2007) under Ron Prince.
Nelson began his college career as a walk-on at Kansas State, and took his redshirt year as a member of the Wildcats' 2003 Big 12 Championship team.
For 2004, Nelson was set to play defensive back in college, but during spring practice following his first year, Snyder moved him to the wide receiver position. He did not record any meaningful statistics in the 2004 season.
Nelson started the 2005 season against FIU. Against the Golden Panthers, he had four receptions for 36 yards. He caught his first career collegiate touchdown, a eight-yard pass from quarterback Allen Webb, in the game. Including the season opener, Nelson caught a touchdown in seven straight games that he appeared in. In that seven-game stretch, Nelson's best performance came against Oklahoma in a game where he had three receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown, which was a 73-yard reception from Webb. Kansas State would struggle down the stretch of the season and not make a bowl game. In the final game of the season, Nelson had seven receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown against Missouri.
During his sophomore season, Nelson caught 45 passes for eight touchdowns.
In his junior season, Nelson was listed on the Biletnikoff Award watchlist, which is an award for the most outstanding receiver in college football. Injuries kept him off the field most of his junior year, leading to a disappointing junior season, in which he caught only 39 passes for one touchdown.
Nelson did have some highlights in the 2006 season despite not getting to play as much. In the season opener against Illinois State, Nelson had four receptions for 62 yards. On November 4, against Colorado, Nelson turned in his best effort of the season with five receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown. One week later, against Texas, Nelson had a quiet day with only three receptions for 15 yards, but he threw a successful pass for 28 yards in the game.
After going unnoticed his junior year, Nelson broke out during his senior year and was among the nation's best wide receivers. In the season opener against Auburn, he had nine receptions for 90 yards. In addition, he threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to running back Leon Patton in the third quarter. Two weeks later, against Missouri State, he had a great performance with 15 receptions for 209 yards and a touchdown. For the second time in his senior season, he threw a touchdown pass, which was a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Deon Murphy. Two weeks later, against Texas, Nelson had 12 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he had a 89-yard punt return touchdown. The next week, against Kansas, Nelson had another great outing with 10 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown. After the Colorado game, Nelson would put together a string of six consecutive games with a receiving touchdown to end the season. On October 20, against Oklahoma State, Nelson had 12 receptions for 176 yards and three touchdowns. Against the Baylor Bears, Nelson had eight receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he had a 92-yard punt return touchdown in the game. Against Iowa State on November 3, Nelson had 14 receptions for 214 yards and touchdown. In the following game against Nebraska, Nelson had nine receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown. Against Missouri in the next game, he had eight receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. In the last game of his collegiate career against Fresno State, Nelson had 15 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown.
Nelson earned consensus All-American honors and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award after catching 122 passes for 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nelson also showed his versatility by throwing two touchdown passes and returning two punts for touchdowns.
Nelson was selected in the second round (36th overall) by the Green Bay Packers in the 2008 NFL Draft. He was the third wide receiver taken in the draft, after Donnie Avery and Devin Thomas. In addition, he was one of two Kansas State Wildcats to be selected that year.
On July 27, 2008, Nelson signed his rookie contract with the Packers.
Nelson scored his first touchdown reception on September 14, 2008 against the Detroit Lions, a 29-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The touchdown was his lone reception in the 48-25 victory. A second touchdown followed in Week 14 against the Houston Texans. Nelson finished his rookie campaign with 33 receptions for 366 yards.
Nelson entered his second season looking to expand on his role with the Packers. On December 20, 2009, he had four receptions for a season-high 71 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On January 3, 2010, he had one reception for 51 yards in the regular season finale against the Arizona Cardinals. In the 2009 season, Nelson played in 13 games for the Packers, catching 22 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. In addition, he saw action as the primary kick returner for most of the 2009 season.
Nelson and the Packers made the playoffs in the 2009 season. The Packers fell to the Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card Round. Nelson had one reception for 11 yards and a touchdown in his playoff debut.
Nelson's role with the Packers expanded in the 2010 season. On November 28, Nelson had five receptions for 61 yards and his first receiving touchdown of the season against the Atlanta Falcons. On December 26, he had four receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown against the New York Giants.
In the 2010 season, Nelson set career highs with 582 receiving yards and 45 catches, while catching two touchdown passes for the third straight year. Following the injury to Aaron Rodgers against the Detroit Lions on December 12, 2010, it was revealed that Nelson was third on the Packers' quarterback depth chart.
After two strong outings in the 2010–11 playoffs against Atlanta and Chicago, Nelson caught a 29-yard touchdown pass on third-and-1 with Steeler William Gay covering, for the first score of Super Bowl XLV. "This was Jordy last week: 'I think we need to convert on third downs to win the game.' ... Rodgers threw a terrific pass, capping an 80-yard touchdown drive," a live-blog reported. In the balance of the game, Nelson struggled some and made no more touchdowns. However, he recovered from a dropped pass early in the fourth quarter to make a 38-yard play on the next down, taking the Packers to the Steelers' two-yard line. Nelson was the top receiver of the game with nine receptions for 140 yards (both career highs), while also gaining 19 more yards on a kick return. Nelson's contributions in the Super Bowl would assist the Packers in defeating the Steelers by a score of 31–25.
After winning his first Super Bowl Championship, Nelson and Packers looked to repeat as champions. On September 8, Nelson had six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. On September 18, he had an 84-yard touchdown reception against the Carolina Panthers. On October 2, he had five receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown against the Denver Broncos.
Combined with his strong performance in Super Bowl XLV, and this good start to the 2011 season, Nelson signed a three-year, $13.35 million contract extension early into the season on October 2, 2011.
On October 16, Nelson had two receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams. On November 6, he had five receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers. He followed up his solid performance against the Chargers on November 14, when he had five receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings. Nelson continued his good stretch the next week on November 20, when he had six receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On Christmas Day, he had six receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns against the Chicago Bears. In the regular season finale on January 1, 2012, he had nine receptions for 162 yards and three touchdowns against the Detroit Lions.
Nelson finished the 2011 regular season with career highs in touchdowns (15), receptions (68), and receiving yards (1,263). He had a career-high three touchdown receptions in the season finale against the Detroit Lions, and moved into sole possession of third place for most receiving touchdowns in a single season in Packers franchise history, behind only Sterling Sharpe (18) and Don Hutson (17). He was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
Nelson and the Packers fell to the New York Giants in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and ended their chance of a repeat championship.
On September 9, 2012, Nelson started the 2012 season with five receptions for 64 yards against the San Francisco 49ers. On September 30, he had eight receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. On October 14, he had nine receptions for 121 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans. On October 21, he had eight receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams. On December 30, 2012, Nelson had three receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings. Nelson's performance against the Vikings was his last of the season with production.
In the 2012 season, Nelson played in 12 games, starting ten; he missed four games and most of another two games due to a hamstring injury. He had 49 receptions for 745 yards and scored seven touchdowns in the 2012 season.
On September 8, 2013, Nelson started the season with seven receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers. The next week, he had three receptions for 66 yards and two touchdowns against the Washington Redskins. He continued his solid start to the season the following week, when he had eight receptions for 93 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. On October 13, he had four receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens. On October 27, he had seven receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings. On November 17, he had eight receptions for 117 yards against the New York Giants. Nelson closed out his 2013 regular season on December 29, when he had 10 receptions for 161 yards against the Chicago Bears.
In the 2013 season, Nelson posted career highs with 85 receptions for 1,314 yards (a 15.5 average) and eight touchdowns. In the 2013 season, he started all 16 games for the first time in his career and was again named as a Pro Bowl alternate.
Nelson and Packers made the playoffs in the 2013 season. However, they fell to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Round.
On July 26, 2014, Nelson signed a four-year extension worth $39 million, receiving an $11.5 million signing bonus toward a guaranteed $14.2 million.
In the season opener against the defending Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks, Nelson had nine receptions for 83 yards. During Week 2 against the New York Jets, Nelson had nine receptions for 209 yards and a touchdown. It was his first career 200-yard receiving game as the Packers defeated the Jets, 31–24, despite having trailed 21–3. He became the first Packer since Javon Walker in 2004 to have 200 or more receiving yards in a single game. On September 28, he had ten receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns against the Chicago Bears. On October 2, he had a 66-yard touchdown reception against the Minnesota Vikings. On October 12, he had nine receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins. On November 9, he had six receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns in another strong performance against the Chicago Bears. The next week, he had four receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles. On December 8, he had eight receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons. On December 21, he had nine receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With a career-high 1,519 receiving yards on the season, Nelson passed Robert Brooks (1,497) to capture the Packers' receiving yards in a season record.
Nelson and Packers made the playoffs in the 2014 but fell to the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship.
In a Week 2 preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, Nelson caught an eight-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers, but then fell to the turf without contact. He limped to the sidelines with an apparent knee injury and did not return to the game. MRI scans deemed that Nelson had torn the ACL in his right knee. He remained inactive for the remainder of the 2015 season.
Nelson would return from his ACL injury in 2016 and return to his 2014 form. In his first game back in the 2016 season opener on September 11, 2016, Nelson had six receptions for 32 yards and a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The next week, he had five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings. Nelson's hot streak continued in the next week, when he had six receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns against the Detroit Lions. On November 13, he had 12 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans. On December 4, 2016, he had eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans. On December 11, he had six receptions for 41 yards and two touchdowns against the Seattle Seahawks. On Christmas Eve, he had nine receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns in another strong performance against the Minnesota Vikings.
Nelson and the Packers reached the playoffs in the 2016 season. However, they fell to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship at the Georgia Dome.
Nelson's successful return season had 97 receptions, 1,257 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns in 2016. His 14 receiving touchdowns led the NFL for the 2016 season. In Week 15, he caught a 60-yard pass from Rodgers to put the Packers in position to kick a field goal and win against the Bears 30-27. He was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for the 2016 season after missing the entire 2015 season with the torn ACL. At the 2017 ESPY Awards won the award for Best Comeback Athlete.
Jordy Nelson married his longtime girlfriend, Emily (née Rothlisberger), in 2007, after proposing on a family vacation to Cancun. Emily played basketball at Bethel College in Kansas. The couple have two sons, Royal and Brooks.
Nelson is a Christian and has spoken about his faith by saying, "Now, as a husband, father and, most importantly, as a Christian, I can see the Super Bowl Champion label with a greater perspective. I know it’s an opportunity to share the most important truth of life: the gospel of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
On August 20, 2015, Nelson's alma mater, Kansas State, revealed that they would name their football team's locker room the "Nelson Family Locker Room" after him, after Nelson donated an undisclosed amount to renovate their athletic facilities.
After the end of a NFL season, Nelson returns to his family farm in Riley, Kansas. He puts in work up to 12 hours a day. Some of the tasks he does are driving a combine to cut wheat or rounding up the 1,000-cow herd in Riley. Nelson said that he identifies more as a farmer than as a football player.