Think back over the last 14 years. The Blackshirts defense has had its ups and downs, but one thing has been consistent: Great defensive backs; NFL-caliber defense backs. Fabian Washington, Josh Bullocks, Daniel Bullocks, Larry Asante, Eric Hagg and Dejon Gomes just to name a handful.
With absolutely no disrespect to the aforementioned Huskers, perhaps the top of the list is the grandson of a Nigerian king, Prince Amukamara.
Amukamara came to Lincoln as a part of the 2007 recruiting class along with five others from the Phoenix area.
Two names were future NFLers Eric Hagg and Marcel Jones. Amukamara was ranked as a three star recruit by Rivals.com, listed as an athlete.
By all accounts he was a fantastic high school running back, but when he got to Nebraska, he was shifted to the defensive side of the ball.
After seeing reserve duty during his freshman year, Amukamara got the opportunity to start three games as a sophomore, but it was during his junior year where he really flourished. He had a team-high 11 pass breakups to go along with 64 tackles on the season while starting all 14 games.
2010 saw him earn first team All-American honors from many publications. He was also named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for various awards including the Jim Thorpe Award, annually given to the best defensive back in the country.
NFL coaches took note of Amukamara’s stellar career at Nebraska, but the New York Giants ultimately pulled the trigger in the 2011 NFL draft. Selected as the No. 19 pick overall, the former Husker defensive back was off to the Big Apple.
The first day after signing his contract, he broke his foot. Talk about bad luck, right? Well, as bad as luck is while earning a Super Bowl ring. He ended up playing in only four games that season, but still received the NFL’s highest honor with the rest of his team.
2012 started with turbulence of a different kind for Prince. Remember this incident?
Amukamara seemed to take it in stride, though.
“That was just fun in the locker room. I definitely do feel safe in my workplace. And if I didn’t feel safe in my workplace, I would have definitely said something to other players or to my coaches,” he said in an interview with ESPN.
On the field, he was finally able to make his presence felt. Starting 11 of the 13 games he played in during the 2012 season, he notched 53 tackles and an interception.
Things continued to improve for Amukamara last season, mostly because he stayed injury free. He started all 16 of the Giants’ games while contributing 85 tackles, 14 passes defended and one interception along with forcing two fumbles.
What does the future hold for the former Husker All-American? He recently had his fifth year option exercised by New York.
I believe this means that he’ll likely be the starter this coming season and possibly the season after across from new free agent acquisition Dominique Rogers-Cromartie.
Amukamara won’t be without competition for a starting job across from DRC. Walter Thurmond was resigned and the Giants also inked another free agent defensive back.
Husker fans may be familiar with him.
Yes, former Big Red defensive back Zackary Bowman is now also a member of the G-Men. He had played with the Chicago Bears since he was drafted by them in the fifth round in 2008.
“He has just three interceptions in his career so far, but he is regarded as a strong, willing run defender and a solid technician in coverage.” – Dan Graziano, ESPN New York
Despite the competition in New York, Amukamara remains one of the better young corners in the league. It’ll be exciting to see him continue on in his career be it in blue or another color.
The Super Bowl champion is another fine representative of Nebraska’s NFL defensive back legacy. The question now: who’s next?
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