By the end of the 2014 season, Ameer Abdullah likely goes down as one of the best running backs to ever play at Nebraska. That ranks up there with being knighted back when it meant something. Can he take his legacy a step further and become the Huskers’ first Heisman winner in 13 seasons? Maybe.
Will he? Well, that depends.
There’ve been countless arguments over how to win the Heisman Trophy. The consensus agreement is that the award isn’t about what it was when first presented.
No longer is the bronze statue about “the most outstanding player in college football in the United States whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity”
The Heisman is about the narrative, the storybook ending and usually the one that makes the most money. I know, you’re shocked.
That being said, I’m guilty of loving the recent stories. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, a quarterback so skilled out of the gate. Pulling off victories in ways unlike anything we’d ever seen while dominating the best conference in the land.
Last year, “Famous” Jameis Winston having the true freshman season to end true freshman seasons. I’d wager Nebraska’s own Ndamukong Suh was one second away from leaping from the No. 4 spot in the voting. Maybe he’d even have won the damn thing.
Abdullah’s story starts when he was a sophomore. He ran for 1,137 yards and eight touchdowns, adding two receiving. As a junior, he cracked the four-digit mark again by running for 1,690 yards and nine scores along with equalling his reception point output.
23 more yards and he’ll be Husker No. 8 to rush for over three grand and 552 yards from passing his former quarterback, Taylor Martinez, for No. 7 on the all-time yardage chart. That’s a good first few games for AA. His story goes beyond the stats, though.
The media (ESPN, specifically) will champion a Heisman contender right along with his school. They’re the unofficial cheering section, though the Four Letters divvies its time up like the stock exchange. If you’re putting up highlights and big wins, three yards and a cloud of dust may get you a look if you’re physical on camera.
Whether or not Abdullah’s tale has a happy ending isn’t determined by Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck. He’ll make sure No. 8 gets the rock plenty.
It’s up to Bo Pelini.
The seventh-year head coach’s success defines his running back’s chances at the ultimate prize. However, that’s where the “it depends” part of whether Abdullah holds the trophy high (well…a few inches up) part comes in.
Being one of the best running backs in Husker history’s something special, but he’s going to have to be part of something even bigger in the nation’s eyes.
It’s not about nine wins or four losses or even showing up to Indianapolis.
If Pelini wants to get Abdullah to New York with a shot at winning that trophy, he needs to bring Nebraska its first conference championship this millennium.
Maybe, just maybe, that gets Nebraska into the College Football Playoff amid controversy, too.
That’s a story. That sells as fast as Abdullah’s jerseys do. Should Pelini lead a team to Indanapolis that falls short, his running back may get invited to New York. However, he won’t get the girl, he won’t drive off into the sunset and he won’t live happily ever after in the Land of the Heisman.
He’ll be another casualty of the ballot box akin to something out of Game of Thrones.
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