Each week of the college football season NCAA.com will take a look at the most impressive individual performances. Some weeks it may be one player who stands head and shoulders above everyone else. This week, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah proves his necessary candidacy for the Heisman Trophy.
Watching him play the game of football, Ameer Abdullah certainly seems like a perfect Heisman candidate. Not only does he have the ability to slam over and in between defenders, but he simulates that character most conjure when thinking about that iconic Heisman Trophy.Abdullah earned his spot, refusing to acquiesce and convert to a defensive back like many schools had wished for him -- including his home state and dream school, Auburn. Instead he worked harder and trained longer to become a complete running back, not a “scatback” that many labeled him. To do that, he's added 20 pounds of muscle since arriving at Nebraska, swelling into the human pinball with legs he currently resembles. And, despite lucrative promises of a future in the NFL, Abdullah returned to the Cornhuskers, eager for a degree and chance to lead his team back to the college football elite. Four games into the season, it looks like he’s doing exactly that.
We’ve previously described Abdullah’s running style as “equal parts violent explosion and swift elusiveness, like a ballerina on rocket skates,” but it seems that characterization might fall short these days. Because now, with his smaller stature and that added muscle, he’s near impossible to tackle on the first try. Against Miami (Fla.) on Saturday, Abdullah couldn't be contained by one man or any defender attempting a half-hearted tackle. (You’d think Miami would’ve learned that lesson after watching this on tape.) No, only full-on, multiple smashes can derail Abdullah.
Often, a player’s personality manifests into their playing style, some more obvious than others. Abdullah’s one of the obvious ones. He has this unique, physical talent when hit, able to contort his body and regain balance or at least maintain it enough to careen for four or so more yards. He refuses to fall easily. Every play, he’s displaying his need to prove doubters wrong in this way.
And all of this has resulted in Abdullah asserting himself as the most important back in college football. We’re not interested if he’s the "best" or "how he’ll project in the NFL," only his necessity within his own team. While it’s easy to see how quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. and wide receiver Kenny Bell (who has the best afro in sports, by the way) might create some three-pronged attack with Abdullah, all defenses and coaches see is Abdullah. He attracts such attention for defenses, it creates space for players such as Armstrong and Bell to navigate and make their own plays.
Without Abdullah, Nebraska wouldn’t have handled Miami as it had. He rushed for 229 yards and two touchdowns and also had a receiving TD in the 41-31 win against the Canes. In total, he recorded 313 total yards, becoming Nebraska’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards, passing 1972 Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers. If he isn’t quite an all-time Nebraska icon, he’s bound to be soon enough.
Abdullah leads the Big Ten in rushing yards (625) and is behind only Pittsburgh’s James Conner (698) across the FBS. He has 17 consecutive games with 100-plus yards from scrimmage, a streak that doesn't look to have an end in sight as Nebraska enters Big Ten competition against Illinois this week.
If he can continue this pace and lead Nebraska to a victory against Michigan State in two weeks, Abdullah will solidify his frontrunner status for the Heisman. Although he’ll face some resistance playing in the Big Ten, that kind of criticism won’t be nothing new under the sun for Abdullah. But then again, it’s never what you do, but how it’s done.
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