James Dobson presents 2013 Lifter of the Year Award to Ameer Abdullah.
By Randy York
Bo Pelini wouldn’t trade third-team AP All-American Ameer Abdullah for any running back in the country. “Not only as a player, but as a person, as a leader and what he brings,” Pelini said. “To me, Ameer embodies what this program and this culture is all about.”
Husker wide receiver, co-captain and 2013 Offensive MVP Quincy Enunwa takes Pelini’s endorsement up another notch. Actually, Enunwa suggests the measuring stick go up 11 notches to define “the warrior” that Pelini sees in Abdullah’s everyday work ethic, his Saturday game day production and his projected NFL performances on Sundays.
New Year’s Wish: 11 Ameers on Both Sides of Ball
“If we could have 11 Ameers on both sides of the ball, that would be anyone’s wish” for a New Year, Enunwa said while describing how tough his teammate was in a singular effort to “will” a first down on a fourth-down run that set the stage for the Huskers’ Hail Mary finish against Northwestern.
Enunwa and Pelini are on the same page. “It was a phenomenal effort,” Nebraska’s sixth-year head coach said of Abdullah’s contorted stretch play against all odds of the Northwestern game. “That showed the type of competitor Ameer is. I know it gets lost in the long run, but that was special and that (Hail Mary) throw doesn’t ever happen without it. Ameer is just a winner. He plays hard. He’s a leader. He wants the ball in his hands. He’s an All-American in my book because he’s a special guy. He’s an All-American on the field. He’s an All-American off the field.”
Abdullah Overall Team MVP, Lifter of the Year
Phenomenal effort is the trigger point for Enunwa wanting 11 Ameers on both sides of the ball. “Ameer’s that type of competitor,” his fellow captain said. “He’s what you want on the field. He’s never giving up. He’s always fighting.” If Nebraska expects to upset Georgia in Jacksonville, Ameer-like shadows must appear regularly on national television. Nebraska’s newest 2013 offensive captain, Abdullah also was named the team’s overall MVP and the Huskers’ 2013 Lifter of Year in a vote among teammates who marvel at Ameer’s dedication and overall strength.
Pelini’s announcement this month that Abdullah and senior Jason Ankrah were added as captains, is fully supported by Enunwa, one of four original captains named last summer, along with Ciante Evans, Spencer Long and Taylor Martinez. To honor Enunwa’s salute to Abdullah, The N-Sider offers up 11 proof points endorsing the idea of “11 Ameers” on both sides of the ball. We have historical context, weave in other thoughts and conclude that extraordinary, unified effort is required for Nebraska to beat Georgia on New Year’s Day.
Gator Bowl Countdown: 11 Amazing Ameers
11) The Homewood, Ala., native has been the heart and soul of Nebraska’s offense this season. A 2013 All-Big Ten running back, Abdullah ranks No. 5 on NU’s single-season rushing chart with 1,568 yards. He needs 122 Gator Bowl rushing yards to overtake Mike Rozier’s No. 4 single-season effort of 1,689 yards in 1982. Even if Ameer falls 18 yards short of his per-game average, he would still overtake Rozier’s No. 4 spot, hardly a big deal because Rozier would remain atop that chart with his 2,148-yard 1983 Heisman Trophy season.
10) Ameer was Nebraska’s first player to reach 1,000 rushing yards in eight or fewer games since Ahman Green in 1997. Green’s 1997 season of 1,877 rushing yards ranks No. 2 on Nebraska’s all-time chart, followed by No. 3 Lawrence Phillips (1,722 in 1994).
9) With a 100-yard game in the Gator Bowl, Abdullah would tie the school record for 100-yard rushing games in a season, matching the 11 100-yard games by Rozier in ’83, Phillips in ’94 and Green in ’97. Abdullah’s 16 100-yard rushing games tie for the fourth-most in Nebraska history.
8) Abdullah’s career rushing total of 2,855 yards is 120 rushing yards shy of Taylor Martinez’s 2,975 career rushing yards. A 121-yard day would move Abdullah to No. 8 on the career rushing list behind No. 1 Rozier (4,780), No. 2 Green (3,880), No. 3 Eric Crouch (3,434), No. 4 Roy Helu Jr. (3,404), No. 5 Rex Burkhead (3,392), No. 6 Calvin Jones (3,153) and No. 7 Ken Clark (3,037). It’s not wise to project ahead, especially when you consider Martinez’s injury-plagued senior season, but right now, with a bowl game, and hopefully, a productive senior season in 2014, Ameer is only 1,025 rushing yards shy of Green’s career total at Nebraska. Ahman Green is a solid benchmark for the elite company we’re talking about. He is, after all, the Green Bay Packers’ all-time leading rusher.
7) Ameer has rushed for 100 yards against Michigan State’s top-ranked defense, and get this – he’s done it in each of the last two seasons. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State’s Rose Bowl-bound head coach, said Abdullah’s quickness and explosiveness rank right up there with his overall toughness. “He can get a crease and go,” Dantonio said. “There’s a reason why he was the league leader in rushing.” Ameer was the only running back to reach 100 yards rushing against Michigan State until Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde rushed for 118 yards at home against the Spartans in the Big Ten Championship Game this month.
6) Abdullah is one of only two Division I running backs who lead their teams in total offense and he is one of 10 active NCAA players with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
5) Abdullah trails only two Nebraska Heisman Trophy winners (Johnny Rodgers and Mike Rozier) in career all-purpose yardage. His 4,774 yards in 2011-12-13 trails Rodgers’ 5,586 in 1970-71-72 and Rozier’s 5,445 in 1981-82-83. You don’t need to be a math major to understand how quickly he can move up on the single-season all-time, all-purpose yard chart. An additional 153 all-purpose yards in the Gator Bowl will increase Ameer’s total from 1,859 yards and sixth-place on the all-time chart to 2,012 yards and second-place behind Rozier’s amazing total of 2,486 yards.
4) Did you know Abdullah ranks fourth on NU’s all-time chart for receptions by a running back with 51? He trails only Marlon Lucky (135), Jeff Kinney (82) and Cory Ross (71). He’s also fourth all-time in kickoff returns with 1,182 yards, trailing fellow I-back Josh Davis (2,265), wide receiver Niles Paul (1,887) and wingback Tyrone Hughes (1,443). That stat helps define Abdullah’s versatility.
3) It’s appropriate to point out that Abdullah’s 254 rushing attempts this season rank fifth all-time on Nebraska’s single-season chart behind Lawrence Phillips’ 286 in 1994, Rex Burkhead’s 284 in 2011, Ahman Green’s 278 in 1997 and Mike Rozier’s 275 in 1983. That stat helps define Ameer’s durability.
2) We interrupt this parade of historic numbers with a quote from Husker teammate Michael Rose, who broke Barrett Ruud’s all-time freshman tackle record with 57 tackles, including 40 in his last four games of the season. A member of BTN’s Big Ten All-Freshman team, Rose says there’s a film of one-on-one routes against running backs. One includes a clip of Abdullah hitting him with an inside move, followed immediately by an outside move and then another inside move “or something like that,” Rose said before describing how he ended up on that play. “I was sitting criss-cross apple sauce on the field,” he said.
1) That takes us back to square one – Ameer’s amazing first-down run that set the stage for Ron Kellogg III’s Hail Mary pass to Jordan Westerkamp to beat Northwestern on the game’s final play. And yes, the first Hail Mary game-winner in Husker history was the unparalleled highlight in an 8-4 regular season. “The dude has no quit in him,” offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles said of Abdullah. One of 23 Nebraska seniors expected to be on the sideline Wednesday for their final game as Huskers, count Sirles as one who seeks Ameer’s standard of excellence and toughness. “I mean, he’s banged up, too, and he’s out there rushing for over 100 yards. He’s making people miss. On film, you watch him catch a low ball, turn around and there’s three defenders between him and the first-down marker. You could just see as soon as he got the ball, there was no way he wasn’t getting the first down. He made two guys miss, dragged another guy for three yards and then reached the ball out for the extra yard and the first down. I mean, that’s unbelievable. That won’t top the Hail Mary, but without Ameer’s amazing effort, there is no Hail Mary.”
Gator Bowl: Time for 11 Ameers on Both Sides of Ball
No wonder Enunwa wants 11 Ameers on both sides of the ball, especially when you take on Georgia in Jacksonville, where the Bulldogs play Florida every year. Backyard brawls require everyone to follow the speed of their leader, and make no mistake. Abdullah, the only junior among six 2013 Husker captains, wants to set the tone for 2014. Nothing would cleanse the taste of Nebraska’s injury-riddled season more than a win over an SEC team in its own familiar surroundings.
Eleven amazing Ameer-like efforts – on both sides of the ball – can carry Nebraska through the winter, light the torch for next spring and build the foundation for the 2014 season. Let’s be honest here. The reinvigorated Huskers want to beat teams to the tune of Hail Varsity next fall. They want to keep the program’s first Hail Mary in the vault, protected for posterity and appreciated for a lifetime. With 11 Amazing Ameer-like efforts, there should be no need for such theatrics going forward.
Best Way to Celebrate Ameer’s Return: Play like Him
All signs, of course, point to Ameer Abdullah returning to Nebraska for a fourth season, and that season begins metaphorically with the Huskers’ first game in 2014. A New Year’s Day game is the final act for seniors moving on and the opening act for the team coming back to succeed them. The Gator Bowl seems like the perfect time for outgoing seniors to show Abdullah their appreciation for his support and for a promising group of underclassmen to give Ameer the same kind of phenomenal effort he’s given them, his head coach and all the staff who appreciates a motor that never stops.
If there is ever a time for 11 Ameers showing up on both sides of the ball, this is it.
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Voices from Husker Nation
Enjoyed reading the blog on Ameer and Quincy’s idea about the standard he sets. I consider myself the biggest Husker fan on this side of the Missouri River near Sioux City. I attended UNL from 1981 to ‘84 – those were the days! I really like your blog. Keep up the good work. Phil Robinson, Bronson, Iowa
This is exactly why I like reading your columns. Really fun, well written, well edited and love all the stats because they prove what a player Abdullah truly is. Let’s hope he gets to 100 yards rushing, in the first half no less. I seriously don’t know if our beloved Huskers will win or not, but I have at least enough faith in our guys to think they have more than a fighting chance. Bryan Hightower, Stateline, Nevada