A week before Nebraska heads to sunny California, something happened that made many Husker fans realize a specific upsetting fact once and for all.
Ndamukong Suh officially graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a bachelor's degree in Construction Management.
This day, while exhilarating for Suh and his friends and family, is a bittersweet moment for proud Nebraska fans everywhere.
In a way we all felt close to the humble young man from Portland, Oregon. His humility and love for the game, compounded by his choice to stay in school and earn a degree, are what made him possibly one of the most beloved Husker players of all time.
On Dec. 19, 2009, though, it all came to a sudden educational end, as the realization that one of the most decorated athletes in college football this year would be leaving for greener pastures come the 2010 draft.
That's the way it is in college football though.
It's not like the NFL, where coaches can put together their staff and players and keep them as long as they see fit. At the most coaches get only five years with the young men they recruit, and usually with that only four years of any significant playing time.
That's what makes coaching college football so hard, but also so rewarding.
Fans are only left to wonder what Suh would have amounted to under four years of tutelage by the Pelini brothers.
Would he have won the Heisman? Would Nebraska have gotten to a national title? Yet another reason why Husker fans can scornfully denounce the Bill Callahan years.
In a game where recruits come and go, commit and de-commit, we have seen a kind of stability grow up in the program over the past two years—a stability marked by Bo Pelini, but more notably his young protégé Ndamukong Suh.
Years from now, Nebraska fans may look back at the 2009 season as the year that Nebraska turned the corner.
Suh was feared by all, rejected by few, and loved by many.
He embodied what it meant to be a Nebraska football player under Pelini and is now the benchmark of success on the defensive line for the Blackshirts for years to come.
His graduation brings pride and sorrow.
Pride, because as fans we can be proud of what the young man has accomplished in a short two years under an actual defensive system.
Sorrow, because there will be a Suh-sized hole to fill on that defensive line come Sept. 4, 2009.
It obviously won't be easy.
Another emotion many Husker fans may be feeling after the Arizona game on Dec. 30 is anticipation.
Anticipation for where Suh will start his career in the NFL, and anticipation for each Nebraska fan hoping that Suh might just land in their favorite team's lap.
Still many may decide to switch allegiances to whatever team Suh ends up going to next year because of the impact he had on Husker athletics when things seemed to be at their worst.
So let me be one among many to wish you good luck, although I don't think you need it, in the NFL, and a hearty thank you for staying one more year, Ndamukong Suh.
Husker fans may be forced to say goodbye to Suh, but we will always remember what he did for this program in 2009, as will Bo Pelini.
So as we wish Suh good luck and farewell, let us look forward to 2010 with a new outlook and a new optimism, because I'm sure that's what Pelini and company will do.
So long Ndamukong Suh, and farewell. I will be cheering for you on Sundays next fall.