During his four years at the University of Nebraska, Ndamukong Suh established himself as a dominant force on the football field as a defensive lineman, breaking records and racking up awards.
On Thursday, the former Grant High School star could become the number one pick of the National Football League draft and by most accounts will come in no lower than the number three pick.
Back home where Suh grew up, he is still remembered as the soft-spoken and focused student who was a steamroller on the football field.
Growing up together, Ngum Suh remembers eliciting chuckles when introducing Ndamukong, who measures 6 foot 4 inches and weighs 300 pounds, as her little brother, whom she has never considered to be an “intimidating” person.
She stresses that she would hate for her brother to be thought of as a two-dimensional football player, who communicates in grunts and can barely think past the next play. She remembers him being fascinated with all things mechanical, and would bombard airline pilots with questions on family trips. She also recalls another instance where he disassembled the family phone, only to re-assemble it in complete working order after drawing the chagrin of their mother.
Expectations were high in the Suh family.
Ngum Suh remembers their Cameroonian father and Jamaican mother telling them that nothing comes for free and that academics always came before sports.
“We didn’t have any excuses to not do our best or not try,” she said.
During his freshman year at Grant High School, Ndamukong was kept from playing sports for the first semester by his mother, a school teacher, who wanted to make sure he transitioned smoothly and stayed focused on academics, said Ngum.
Ndamukong and Ngum’s father, an engineer who goes by “Michael,” remembers his son, being quiet and very large, which drew teasing from other kids, but never let it take anything away from him.
While playing football at Grant, Ndamukong Suh, whose name means “house of spears” in his father’s native language, became Parade All-American Honors while playing defense, in addition to earning the 2004 Portland Interscholastic League Defensive Player of the Year and the state Class 4A Defensive Player of the Year.
Jacque Sage, the athletics director at Grant High School, remembers Suh from his days as a student there when he played football and basketball.
“He really grew up in his sophomore and junior years,” recalls Sage, when he developed the focus and drive that propelled him to where he is now.
At the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Suh continued to excel racking up a number of awards and was a finalist for the coveted Heisman Trophy in 2009, while graduating from the College of Engineering with a degree in construction management.
As a defensive lineman for UN, he racked up 215 career tackles, including 57 for lost yardage, 24 sacks, six blocked kicks, 15 pass breakups and 38 quarterback hurries. He also scored three touchdowns. Suh also became the first Nebraska defensive lineman to lead the team in tackles since 1973.
After graduating Suh has been poised to join the NFL as a top pick, with sports
With a future multimillion contract all but assured, Suh has already pledged to donate $2.6 million to his alma matter to beef up its athletic facility and provide scholarships for students.
This prompted one Michigan sports columnist, in calling for the Detroit Lions to pick up Suh, to write, “I think Ndamukong Suh has everything it takes to be a superstar player. It also looks like he might have what it takes to be a superstar person.”