So you heard Ameer Abdullah was coming back for his senior year and maybe assumed it was because he was told his draft evaluation was not as high as hoped.
Do not assume.
“I won’t get specific into where they put me, but it was really high,” the Husker running back said Thursday.
A reporter set a trap for specifics, asking if Abdullah might have left school had he been told he was a first- or second-round pick by the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
Abdullah grinned, then adroitly maneuvered around that trap like he does Big Ten linebackers.
“It was very high,” Abdullah said. “It was right around that ballpark. So it was high.”
Still, even with a draft evaluation that projected him being taken in the first half of this year's draft, Abdullah chose one more year in a Nebraska uniform.
And, during a news conference to discuss that decision, Abdullah gave two big reasons why:
1) He wants to become the ninth of nine siblings to earn a college degree.
2) He wants a championship.
There should have been little doubt before the news conference, and there certainly wasn't any after it, that Abdullah is the alpha dog of the 2014 Huskers.
“A lot of guys get complacent and feel like they've reached their ceiling, and I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface,” he said. “I feel like I can come back and really improve as an overall back and improve my stock.”
As for the risk of being injured?
“There’s obviously a risk. There’s a risk walking down the street. You can get hit by a car. Anything can happen. I just look at Montee Ball and Le’Veon Bell. They came back, and every year of their career they had 300 carries, and they’re doing just fine.”
By Abdullah’s account, Husker coach Bo Pelini did not pressure him one way or another, though, obviously, it can be concluded Pelini preferred Abdullah return.
Pelini’s message was simply to have patience while making a decision.
“Just think it through,” Abdullah said of what the head coach told him. “Just don’t get your evaluation back and jump to a conclusion or anything. Just take it and think long and hard on it.”
The native of Homewood, Ala., also leaned heavily on his older brother, Muhammad.
He’s an attorney. He’s 15 years older than Ameer, who is the youngest in the family. He’s very wise, Ameer said.
“He knows a lot about life. He’s been through just about any situation you can imagine. Talking to him a lot, he really gave me a lot of comfort coming back and a lot of insight into the pros and cons of leaving or coming back. I just can’t thank him enough for what he was for me in the past three weeks.”
One thing that did not affect his decision was the fact so many underclassman running backs declared for the draft.
He wishes all them well, but added: “A lot of guys don’t understand how big of a jump that is, especially in the NFL, they chew you up and spit you out.”
Abdullah’s mind was made up for certain about a week after the Gator Bowl. He announced his decision last Thursday, but knew what he was doing three days before that.
He said the statement, which drew some national attention for the thoughtful way it was crafted and importance it placed on education, did not take him long to write.
“Honestly, it didn’t take me that long because it came from my heart and was what I felt was right. … Instead of me just coming back, I really wanted to understand why, and why it’s important to me, and why it’s necessary for the next step in my life.”
After running for 1,690 yards this season, Abdullah needs 904 to pass Ahman Green for No. 2 on Nebraska's career list and 1,804 to replace Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier as the school’s all-time leading rusher.
His name could also come with some Heisman buzz this preseason.
“At the end of the day, you have to take it with a grain of salt, and understand there’s going to be a lot of high expectations now and understand what matters at this point,” Abdullah said. “And the Heisman doesn’t matter at this point.”
What does matter is setting a standard for those around you.
Abdullah said there is a lot of positive energy within the program, as the team returned to winter conditioning this week still fueled by a Gator Bowl victory against Georgia.
“I have a lot of personal goals, but teamwise, we want to win the Big Ten,” Abdullah said. “That’s the attitude in the locker room right now.”
He will gladly help shape that attitude. He said he has to “be the voice of the team now.”
He then borrowed a slogan from a Husker team of yesteryear — the 1994 national championship team.
He described the season ahead as “unfinished business” for the Huskers.
“In 2012, we didn’t finish well. In 2013, we left a lot out on the field,” he said. “Hopefully, 2014, the third time can be the charm. I really want to win a championship, not only for our teammates, but for this program. We really deserve it. Coach Bo and this coaching staff really deserve it. I assure you, this offseason, that is the attitude.”