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04.26.2010 / Suh is Headed to Detroit. Blog Posting by Mike Babcock, Huskers Illustrated Magazine.

Following a football practice late in the spring of 2006, Ndamukong Suh talked about his plans for the future. He was among 13 true freshmen who had played for Nebraska the previous season. But he had played in only two games before being sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery.

"He is a great player, great person, and tremendous leader."

Suh could have returned late in the season, but he was held out in order to preserve eligibility with a medical redshirt. “Hopefully, I won’t have to use that (extra) year,” he said. His plan was to finish his Cornhusker career in four years and move on to the NFL. But it’s always great to get it back,” Suh said of the eligibility.

As it turned out, he used the additional season of eligibility, and made the most of it, although the All-America defensive tackle could have left for the NFL following his fourth season. Suh was projected as a high draft pick, possibly a first-rounder, as a junior.

He consulted with the NFL draft advisory board before deciding to return. “He is a great player, great person, and tremendous leader,” said Coach Bo Pelini at a mid-January news conference to announce Suh’s decision. “But I think at the end of the day, the most important thing I said to him is, I said: ‘If you’re coming back, you need to come back for the right reasons. And 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. And it’s about team. It’s about Nebraska, what we have going on here.”

Suh was “on the same page as I was” and “made the decision for the right reasons,” said Pelini, who added: “I think a year from now, everybody will be saying he made the right decision.”

Pelini’s prediction was spot on. A year later, Suh had enough hardware to fill a trophy case, including an Outland Trophy and a Lombardi Award. And he had a degree. Then last week, after announcing he would donate $2.6 million to the university including $600,000 for an endowed scholarship in the College of Engineering, he realized a dream by being selected in the NFL draft.

The Detroit Lions made him the second pick, the highest for a Cornhusker since 1988, when Neil Smith was taken second by the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith played 13 seasons in the NFL. Suh is headed in the same direction, just as he envisioned that spring day in 2006.

For more great content on the Huskers, check out Huskers Illustrated Magazine or huskersillustrated.com.

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