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Eric Olson | The Associated Press | January 17, 2014

Nebraska's Abdullah says finishing his degree a priority

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LINCOLN, Neb. — The pull of the NFL couldn't overtake Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah's desire to make his family proud and finish his college education on schedule.

Abdullah said Thursday that the NFL draft advisory committee told him he probably would be selected "very high in the first half" of this year's draft if he were to turn pro. The deadline for underclassmen to declare was Wednesday.

He declined to elaborate further on his draft projection during a news conference where he discussed why he's returning for his senior season. He had announced his decision in a written statement last week.

"A lot of guys get to a point of complacency where they feel like they've reached their ceiling," Abdullah told reporters. "I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface. I can improve as an overall back and improve my stock."

Abdullah is coming off the most productive season by a Nebraska rusher since Ahman Green in 1997. Abdullah rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the second consecutive year. His 1,690 yards was the fourth-best total in program history.

But Abdullah struggled with turnovers. His five lost fumbles were tied for third-most among FBS running backs, according to STATS. He said doing a better job holding onto the ball will be his priority next season. He also said he needs to polish up his pass protection and finishing his runs strong.

Abdullah said he made his decision on Jan. 7 and that the high number of running backs in the draft pool had no bearing.

"I wish those guys the best of luck," he said. "A lot of guys don't understand how big a jump that is, especially for a running back in the NFL. They chew you up and spit you out, and you really have to take into consideration what the next level holds for people. That's what I really did."

The Cornhuskers finished 9-4 last season, with a win against Georgia in the Gator Bowl. Abdullah will be the centerpiece of the offense and could be a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Abdullah is the youngest of nine children. All eight of his siblings have college degrees, and several have advanced degrees. Abdullah, a history major, is on track to graduate in December.

He said he realized he could always return to school to complete his degree if he had opted to go pro now.

"But who wants to come back to school after you leave school?" he said. "Nobody wants to do that."

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