LINCOLN — If it's November, it's awards-courting time for sports information directors of college football teams. The emails, packets and videos start to flow to voters for a variety of awards.
When Nebraska puts together its promotional material for I-back Ameer Abdullah, it'll have a money quote from coach Bo Pelini to go with the strong stats:
“The guy is just a warrior,” Pelini said of his 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior from Homewood, Ala. “He plays hard. He's a leader. He's a winner. He wants the ball in his hands. He's everything you want. I can say that he's everything you want on the field and he's everything you want off the field. He's a joy to have on your football team and a joy to coach. He brings it every day.”
Said redshirt freshman linebacker Michael Rose: “He's definitely the heart and soul of this team.” Does Abdullah have an All-Big Ten, All-America or even a Doak Walker Award résumé?
Abdullah's primary competition at the Big Ten level is Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon — 1,160 yards and 11 touchdowns — who is part of a dynamic Badger duo. Other backs nationally in contention for awards are Boston College's Andre Williams (1,471 yards, 12 touchdowns), Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (1,221 yards, 11 touchdowns), Washington's Bishop Sankey (1,305 yards, 13 touchdowns) and South Carolina's Mike Davis (1,058 yards, 10 touchdowns). Abdullah's stat portfolio puts him in the mix.
Teammates like Rose marvel at Abdullah's skill set — especially his elusiveness.
“I hope it never gets out, but there's a film of when we did 1-on-1 routes with the running backs,” Rose said. “He hit me with an inside move, outside move, inside move, something like that. I was sitting criss-cross applesauce on the field.”
Rose said Abdullah is a vocal leader. Pelini agreed, adding that Abdullah had been brought up well by his parents.
“They are about the right things and about doing everything that they could do to give their son every opportunity in life,” Pelini said. “And he was smart enough to be able to take that guidance and that great home life and the sacrifices his family was making for him to use and listened.”
Abdullah described his parents, Kareem and Aisha Abdullah, as “great people, humble people.”
“I'm the youngest of nine kids, so I had to earn what I got,” he said. “I appreciate everything I got. My brothers and sisters are my biggest supporters, always pushing me to be the best. I come from a successful family. I have lawyers in my family, future physicians. It pushes me to be the best.”
Abdullah said he's not worried about individual awards, although some — especially on the conference level — are inevitably coming.
“That's great, it's cool,” Abdullah said. “There are a lot of running backs that are deserving, including in this conference. At the end of the day, like my dad always tells me — it only takes one team to like you. It's not about the accolades you earn in college. It's all about what you can control. I can't control what people in the media vote for.”
But he'd get Pelini's vote.
“I know I wouldn't trade him for anybody,” Pelini said. “How all those votes happen and everything, I don't know. He's an All-American in my book because he's a special guy.”
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