CFB Player Watch: Nebraska Cornhuskers RB Ameer Abdullah
Ameer Abdullah is known for his jukes. The Nebraska running back weaves through defenses like a turbo-charged gazelle, leaving piles of would-be tacklers in his wake. Abdullah's whole game is predicated on defying expectations. Defenders expect him to be one place, but in a flash he's somewhere else. This elusive style has claimed many victims in the Big Ten over the past few seasons, but perhaps the best juke of Abdullah's career happened when he surprised many onlookers by passing up a potential early NFL draft slot and returning to Nebraska for his senior season. This unexpected decision was true to form for the tricky Abdullah, who's poised to dazzle college audiences for one last NCAA season before finally making the jump to Sundays.
Abdullah once dreamed of becoming the next great Auburn running back, but The Tigers and the rest of the SEC viewed the diminutive Alabama native as a defensive back during his recruitment. The idea of giving up his favored position was extremely unappealing to Abdullah, who opted to sign with Nebraska and play running back instead. This decision paid quick dividends for both parties. Abdullah starred on special teams as a true freshman before compiling 1,137 rushing yards as a sophomore. This breakout season was enough to earn second-team All-Big Ten honors. The Huskers' tailback followed that up with an even better junior season, amassing 1,690 rushing yards en route to first-team All-Big Ten and third-team All-America honors.
Listed at just 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, Abdullah is undersized compared to the prototypical running back, but he compensates for his lack of sheer bulk with exceptional quickness. Abdullah is lightning in a bottle with a rare ability to evade defenders and string multiple cuts together without losing momentum. He can truly cut on a dime. In this regard, he's similar to current NFL star LeSean McCoy, another back with modest size who has carved out a productive career with his unique ability to make defenders miss. In addition to being a dynamic runner, Abdullah is also a weapon in the passing game. He tallied 50 receptions in the past two seasons with an impressive 8.2 yards per-catch average.
Abdullah's ability to excel as both a runner and receiver has put him squarely on the NFL's radar. Earlier this year, the NFL Draft Advisory Board estimated that he would have been an early pick in the top half of the draft had he declared. It's rare that a college football player willingly delays NFL riches in order to earn his degree and enjoy one last year of campus life, but Abdullah defies convention both on and off the field. Whereas many college football stars are brash and immature, Abdullah is grounded and wise beyond his years. He has garnered numerous honors for his academic achievements and leadership during his time at Nebraska.
Whether the topic is his elusive running style or his academic exploits, it seems that Ameer Abdullah is predictably unpredictable. His unconventional personality defies expectation, and his mystifying jukes defy the laws of physics. With more gravity-bending swerves in his future, the only thing you can be sure of is to expect the unexpected.