COLUMBUS — Listen and work hard.
That was Ndamukong Suh’s message to a crowd of 950 who packed themselves into the Platte County Agricultural Park Exhibit Hall Monday evening for the 2010 Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Celebration.
“There are a lot of people that have a lot of God-given talent,” Suh said. “You can’t just rely on that. I learned that early on in my career at Nebraska. Just because you can take plays off in high school, just because you might be stronger and bigger than everyone else, doesn’t mean you can do so at the next level. The reason why I was good in my last two years at Nebraska was because coach Bo (Pelini), coach Carl (Pelini) and the whole defensive staff made me realize technique is the key to beating anyone on any play, so I worked on it.”
Even though he was named Associated Press Player of the Year, and won the Outland Trophy, the Lombardi Award, the Bronko Nagurski Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award, Suh is still consumed with bettering himself. He went to McKinney, Texas, to workout with Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson to improve every facet of his game — his agility, his explosive jumping ability, his balance and his straight-ahead speed.
“I worked out for about six weeks prior to the combine there,” Suh said. “I worked out every morning, usually Monday through Friday. But I also had to attend other events and make appearances that I had obligations to. I had to get up early and stay up late.
“I went to the Super Bowl. Everyone thinks you’re there to have a good time, watch the game and watch a fellow Husker, Cody Glenn, play. I didn’t get a chance to watch the game at all. I actually left Sunday and went back to Texas just to get ready to work out the next day. I missed the game. It was unfortunate I wasn’t able to watch it, but football is a business for now. I realized there are other things I need to get done.”
The AP Player of the Year came to Columbus because the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce asked Suh to be the keynote speaker at its annual celebration.
Chamber President K.C. Belitz said he contacted Suh’s agent and found a date that was doable for both parties. In 13 days, everything was put together.
Belitz was happy to see so many people attend the event.
“We know there are a lot of Husker fans, and to get someone who is connected with the program the way Ndamukong is, is great,” Belitz said. “Obviously, it’s pretty rare to find someone in the position he’s in now, so we are very pleased to have him share his message here tonight. It’s tough to get to a place where he’s at right now.”
The chamber had Bo Pelini speak two years ago. The crowd who attended was about as large as the one that attended the event Monday.
The soon-to-be pro football player left the Super Bowl early because he realized there was only one way to really achieve what he wanted. It was to listen to his Olympic medal-winning training coach and work hard. He chose the long-term satisfaction of preparing himself for his career over the short-term satisfaction of watching a game.
That’s why he came back to school for his senior year.
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Suh had a long-term goal, which goes beyond playing football in the National Football League that has to do with his dad’s business. Suh’s dad is an engineer, who runs a company in Oregon, where Suh is from.
Suh had that in mind when he talked to Husker head coach Bo Pelini at the end of the 2008 season, when the coach laid out the pros and cons for Suh, who thought about entering the NFL draft. Bo Pelini told Suh the pros out-weighed the cons and did everything but tell Suh to leave for the NFL. But before Suh left Nebraska, he still had a few things to cross off his checklist.
“I came back because I wanted my degree. I wanted to work with my dad in the off season,” Suh said. “Coach Bo really told me to go to the NFL. He said I had a great opportunity to change the life of my family, and I understood that, but I came back because I wanted to finish my degree, have a great season and leave a stamp on this program, saying ‘We’re back. We’re on our way back to being that national power.’ I wanted to be a big part of it.”
With the Holiday Bowl drubbing of Arizona, his numerous post-season awards and a college degree in construction management/engineering in hand, Suh said he believes he has accomplished the goals he set for himself over the last year of his collegiate career. He, along with his other teammates this season, have even revived the Blackshirts.
Suh said this year’s team would get in fights if another teammate took a shot in practice. By getting in those little fights, the team showed every member had each other’s back.
“That’s one thing you realize when players like Grant Wistrom come back for a game,” Suh said. “All of those guys have our backs. They want you to be better than they were. It’s hard to do because they won national championships, but it’s the type of attitude you need to have to be a Blackshirt.”
Belitz said everyone should strive for their own pursuit of excellence. Suh’s pursuit comes in the form of football. Other people find that pursuit of excellence in other places.
“It’s something that should be inspiring to anyone that hears it,” Belitz said. “We put together this event in a short time frame, but we have an awfully capable staff at the chamber, and they were able to get it done.”
The event also celebrated the chamber’s business year and the passing of the board chairmanship from Rick Chochon of Pinnacle Bank to Neal Suess of Loup Power District. Members’ anniversaries were noted as well.