The cover of The World-Herald’s sports section from Jan. 13, 2009. See the full page below.
On Thursday, Ameer Abdullah had good news for Husker fans. The Nebraska back announced that he was staying at NU for his senior season instead of entering the NFL Draft.
Since 1993, Nebraska has had five I-backs declare for the NFL Draft after their junior seasons: Brandon Jackson (2007), Ahman Green (1998), Lawrence Phillips (1996), Calvin Jones (1994) and Derek Brown (1993).
As Jones knows, making the decision to stay in college instead of jumping early to the money and fame of the NFL can be a challenge.
“The NFL, that’s a life-changing decision in so many ways,” said Jones, drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1994, in an article published this week. “As a college student, you like that environment, you’re familiar with that scene, so you like the known because you fear the unknown.
“So during this time it’s a constant tug of war. You’re making sure, ‘Did I look here? Did I do this?’ Then you think you have a decision and then you go back and forth again.”
But Abdullah isn’t the only Husker to choose to stick with the program during the Bo Pelini era.
In 2009, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh passed on NFL riches for another year at NU. Now, he’s the most-feared player in the NFL and has found financial success through his contract with Detroit and endorsement deals.
Why’d Suh stay?
“Another year would help me that much more,” Suh said during a press conference at Memorial Stadium to announce the decision.
Suh’s return obviously had Husker fans excited, but also was great news for Pelini. From staff writer Mitch Sherman’s Jan. 13, 2009 report:
“I’m thrilled that he’s coming back, because he’s a great player, a great person, a tremendous leader,” coach Bo Pelini said. “But I think at the end of the day, the most important thing I said to him was, ‘If you’re coming back, you need to come back for the right reasons.’
“The right reasons are not NFL-oriented. The right reasons are to get his degree, to play tremendous football, to help this program in the future. It’s about team. It’s about Nebraska. It’s about what we have going on here. He was totally on the same page as I was.”
Pelini visited Suh, on his 22nd birthday last Tuesday, at home in Portland, Ore. Suh said he reached a final decision that night, informing the coach on their drive to Pelini’s hotel after dinner with the Suh family.
“It was very casual,” Suh said of the visit. “We just put out all the pros and cons. He was very even keeled about it. He wasn’t pressuring me to come back. It was just an all-around good conversation. He expects for me to be a leader. I’m definitely up for that challenge.”
All projections come with a degree of uncertainty.
“From being in the NFL as long as I was and sitting in those draft rooms,” Pelini said, “you come to understand that there’s a lot of factors involved on draft day. It just depends on how the chips fall. It’s a roll of the dice.”
Pelini compared Suh’s choice to the situation faced by Glenn Dorsey in 2007 at Louisiana State. As the LSU defensive coordinator, Pelini said he advised Dorsey to leave for the draft after his junior year.
Dorsey returned and won the Outland Trophy and many other awards as a senior, leading the Tigers to a national title. He was drafted fifth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs last year and signed a $51 million contract, $23 million of which is guaranteed.
“Big Suh’s got some edges in some areas (on Dorsey),” Pelini said. “It just shows you how good he can be. Whoever gets him when the time comes is going to be thrilled. He’ll be a poster child for the organization.”
Suh said he deliberated with his family after returning to Portland from the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. He discussed options in a long conversation with his sister, Ngum, a former soccer player at Mississippi State, and his parents.
“School is a huge thing with me and my family,” Suh said. “I definitely want to graduate from the University of Nebraska.”
The choice to stay worked out for Suh. He returned to college and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, the Associated Press College Player of the Year and unanimous First-Team All-American. He also won a slew of other awards.
The strong showing his senior season at Nebraska helped his draft stock as he was selected second overall by the Detroit Lions. Following his junior season, he had been projected by the NFL’s advisory board as a late first- or early second-round pick.
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