If the average person had the freedom to travel anywhere in the world, where would Atlanta fall in the pecking order?
You can go to Paris, London or Shanghai. Egypt or Italy or the Maldives.
Ndamukong Suh’s seen a lot of those places in winters past. This year, he's got a new destination: the Super Bowl.
It’s in Atlanta, so there’s no place on Earth the former Nebraska great and current Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman would rather be.
“I can think back to times where, unfortunately, I’m already into my offseason and I’m in Greece, I’m in Turkey, I’m in Israel and I’m watching the Super Bowl,” Suh told the Journal Star this week, noting he’s also been to Super Bowl watch parties in China and London.
This year, he’ll be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Right in the center of the action. Playing for the what would be the first major title of his career.
Suh, one of the most dominant defensive players in Husker history and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, never won a conference title in Lincoln. He came within one second, of course, in 2009, against Texas. He walloped Colt McCoy on what at first appeared to be the game’s final play — and the Longhorns the entire game, you’ll remember — before officials put one second back on the clock and NU watched a game-winning field goal sail through the uprights, turning a 12-10 win into a 13-12 loss.
But a banner has eluded the 32-year-old.
This is his best chance yet. Suh won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2010. He’s a three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler. He signed a six-year, $114-million mega contract in March 2015 with the Miami Dolphins.
He’s done things that very few people on the planet, even very few NFL players, ever do.
Until this year, though, after signing a one-year, $14-million deal with the Rams, Suh had never won a playoff game. Now he’s got two and counting.
The second, of course, came in come-from-behind fashion at New Orleans, the NFC’s top seed, after LA fell behind 13-0 early on. The Rams lost at the Superdome earlier in the season, 45-35 in early November. That made the 26-23 triumph — thanks in part to field goals of 48 and 57 yards from Lincoln native Greg Zuerlein — all the sweeter.
“We had a couple of early mistakes on offense, which is unfortunate but part of football and we just maintained our goals and said, ‘No team can beat us if we make them kick field goals,’” Suh said. “We know our offense is very high-powered and they came back and continue to prove that every game. … We took care of business. We had no other mindset of not being able to do that.
“Personally, I felt that was the right way. If we were going to go to the Super Bowl, to go back down there, win at their home and get to Atlanta.”
It wasn’t without drama, of course. Suh, who had 1½ sacks on the game, was shown on the broadcast, head bowed in prayer during the waning moments.
“Sitting on the bench and just very emotional and ready to hopefully jump up for joy and see the ball go through the upright,” he recalled. “I didn’t see it, but I heard the crowd noise go deafening and our sideline go crazy. Just a lot of yelling and screaming and excitement, to say the least.”
This time, he won’t be among the 100-plus million watching the final game of the NFL season from some far-flung corner of world. He’ll be playing in it.
“It means the world. It’s part of my résumé that I can hopefully not only say that I went to the Super Bowl but that I went and won a Super Bowl ring,” he said. “Nobody can ever take that away from you. I think it’s the pinnacle of sports, especially being a professional football player.”