It’s been a decent senior season for Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah.
But oh, what could have been.
Abdullah became the first Husker player ever to gain over 1,000 yards in three different seasons. He now has 1,417 yards this year with 18 touchdowns.
Abdullah is second on Nebraska’s all-time rushing yards list with 4,780. That’s 396 behind all-time leader Mike Rozier (4,780).
He already holds the Nebraska career record for all-purpose yards (6,798). He also holds records for career carries (773), career receiving touchdowns by a running back (6) as well as kickoff return yards in a game (211).
He’ll be on the field Friday when the Huskers (8-3, 4-3 in the Big Ten) close the regular season in an 11 a.m. game against Iowa (7-4, 4-3) at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
With that game and a bowl game left, he could still break Rozier’s mark but it seems unlikely.
Just a few weeks ago, it looked like a done deal.
Abdullah had 225 yards Oct. 25 in a 42-24 victory over Rutgers. That performance left him just 512 yards behind Rozier’s career record.
Senior receiver Kenny Bell was sure at that point that Abdullah would break Rozier’s record.
“I don’t know how close he is, but he’s Ameer Abdullah,” Bell said. “I have faith in the kid in anything he does. That’s not just football. That’s life.”
When informed that Abdullah need just 512 yards with four regular games left, Bell said, “Oh yeah. He’s getting that. I thought you were going to say like 800...That’s getting shattered.”
Most Nebraska fans probably thought so too. But the next game, Abdullah had a 1-yard performance against Purdue when a knee injury in the first quarter forced him out of the game.
“I’ve been really healthy during my career here at Nebraska.” Abdullah said. “When I got hurt in the Purdue game, it was the first time I really had to miss a game. I only played two drives.
“But at the end of day it is not about me, it is about the success of the team. The way things have been the last two weeks, that hurts much more than me being injured and statistically finish how I wanted to finish.”
The last two weeks there hasn’t been much success for Abdullah or the Huskers.Two weeks ago, he had 69 yards in a loss to Wisconsin, then had 98 last week when the Husker fell to Minnesota.
“I have been frustrated the last couple of weeks, if I am being honest,” Abdullah said. “The way I started the year off was really good, but like I said, God does everything for a reason. Good will come from this. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve become more resilient and learned how to fight through adversity.”
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Abdullah is just a warrior on the football field.
“He came back quickly off of an injury,” Pelini said. “He’s been less than 100 percent in the last couple weeks and hasn’t blinked an eye. I think it shows the character he has.
“To me, Ameer embodies everything you want a student-athlete to be. I believe that in every way. In his life, how he approaches every day, how he competes. He’s a pretty special guy.”
Individual accomplishments don’t mean that much to Abdullah. He says the most important thing is building relationships that will last with both coaches and teammates.
“Meeting the people I’ve met through my experience here. In particular, the best position coach I’ve ever had, Coach (Ron) Brown,” Abdullah said. “The relationship I’ve built with him. He is like a father to me. Leaving him is definitely going to hurt. I am going to keep him in my life. Coach Bo as well.”
Abdullah is also best friends with Bell, who holds the school record for yards receiving and career receptions.
Not a bad one-two punch for the Huskers, even though they haven’t finished the season the way they would like.
“This season, things have gotten away from us a little bit, but I know the character of this team, and I know we are going to finish things strong,” Abdullah said. “We just have to take a deep breath and realize that we don’t have any control over what we can’t control.”
Abdullah has had plenty of highlights during his career, but when asked to pick his favorite play, he picked a run by Rex Burkhead in 2011.
“Freshman year against Ohio State, Rex (Burkhead) caught the spin route, made a guy miss and scored,” Abdullah said. “It just showed what kind of player he was. Anytime you were accounting for Rex on the field, those were the kind of plays he was going to make. That was probably my favorite play, just witnessing that.”
Asked then to pick his personal favorite play, he went with one against Miami this season in a game where he carried 35 times for 229 yards.
“There was one run where Denzel Perryman, a pretty hot prospect for this upcoming draft, I stiff armed him.” Abdullah said. “It was only like an eight-yard run, but it was only supposed to be about two yards. It just showed me how far I’ve come as a runner from my freshman year.”