Abdullah ready to leave his own mark

2013-08-02T23:45:00Z 2013-08-03T10:23:05Z Abdullah ready to leave his own markBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Fall camp doesn't begin for three days, but Ameer Abdullah already seemed locked into man-on-a-mission mode Friday.

Then again, perhaps that is just his default setting.

Determined? Yes. Inclined to offer declarations about the yardage totals he'd like to put next to his name this fall? No.

“There’s no need to share them with the public,” Abdullah said of his goals. “I have a few, obviously. You don’t just go into a season without any goals, but I like to keep them to myself.”

Others can opine about Nebraska's running back rotation, and how they think the Huskers should rotate carries to keep Abdullah fresh with Imani Cross and freshmen Adam Taylor and Terrell Newby in the fold.

Abdullah is just keeping the focus on improving himself, even if most onlookers thought the sophomore version of him was pretty good in its own right.

“I gotta get better. I gotta get a lot better. Film never lies,” the junior from Homewood, Ala., said. “I’ve made strides throughout this summer. We’ll see.”

He feels good now.

Abdullah tweaked his knee in March. Missed the end of spring ball. But that's old news.

“I’ve ran with the team, sweated with the team, got tired with the team," he said of how he spent his summer.

He rushed for 1,137 yards and had 178 yards receiving last season. His 134.6 all-purpose yards per game were fourth-best in the Big Ten.

And along with quarterback Taylor Martinez, it's the first time in Husker history the team has a pair of returning 1,000-yard rushers.

Whatever was good last year, Abdullah obviously can envision more for the season ahead.

“I’m hungry, just as hungry as I was my freshman year, to play,” he said. “I just want to prove the things I feel I haven’t proven yet.”

No longer does anyone ask silly questions about whether the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Abdullah can run inside, as sometimes came up before last season.

“I think he might be an even better inside runner than an outside runner,” said senior fullback C.J. Zimmerer. “He gets through that hole so quick, then makes a guy miss, then he’s out of the gate running 30, 40 yards downfield. I think you’re going to be seeing a lot more of that this year.”

People still do bring up the fumbles. Like it or not, that topic likely will follow Abdullah into at least the beginning of this season after he fumbled eight times in 2012, losing six.

The third-quarter giveaway against Georgia in the Capital One Bowl, although a call disputed by some in the Husker camp, kept the subject fresh in people's minds.

The comparisons to Rex Burkhead still arise. Burkhead popped into the conversation a few times Friday even though he's now with the Cincinnati Bengals.

If it’s flattering, Abdullah seems ready to try to leave his own legacy.

“He’s a great guy to pattern yourself after,” Abdullah said. “You see what he does in the community. You see what he does in the field. He just carries himself so well. And with those comparisons, I feel like I’m not worthy sometimes, because Rex is such a great guy. But, obviously, I want to be my own person at the end of the day. I want to do my own things. I want to make my own mark.”

He’s certainly leaving that mark in the weight room. In December, he was named the team's co-lifter of the year after squatting 540 pounds, putting up a bench press of 345 and power cleans of 310.

Watching Abdullah go to work behind the scenes is something to behold, teammates say.

"He’s jumping up toward my head, like 40 inches off the ground, squatting the house, benching the house, it seems like,” Zimmerer said.

That'll win you respect in a hurry. Abdullah won team captain Spencer Long's a while ago.

“That’s what people don’t see. Nobody works harder than Ameer,” Long said. “That’s why I love the guy so much, love blocking for him so much. He puts his heart and soul into it. That’s why you do what you do as a lineman, is for guys like him.”

Because of that work ethic, Abdullah’s voice carried significant weight in the locker room even last year as an underclassman.

Abdullah was about as vocal as anyone on the team, according to Zimmerer.

Now Abdullah will try to be one of the team leaders who help the Huskers chase down a conference championship for the first time since 1999.

That pursuit will play itself out soon enough. Right now, the running back isn’t wasting any time worrying about all the preseason hype surrounding Ohio State, with many pundits picking the Buckeyes to win the conference.

“It’s college football. We ain’t even start practicing yet,” Abdullah said. “Just to say a team’s going to be there, that’s just paying lip service. ... We all have to put in the work.”

Someone asked Abdullah how he planned to enjoy this final weekend before practice begins.

“Film,” he said. “A lot of film.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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