Three athletes were molded and hardened by Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini in 2009.
They were pushed beyond their limits, their barriers were broken, their confidence shattered and rebuilt before entering the 2010 draft.
One battled his way back to the top Nebraska’s depth chart after being buried in the doghouse.
Another picked up the nickname “The Assassin” for his ball-hawking and lick-laying skills.
The third, well, his name is spelled out in huge, bold letters in Nebraska’s weight room.
As a reward for their hard work, they were selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. How did they fare and what does their future hold?
DT Ndamukong Suh: Round 1, No. 2 overall, Detroit Lions
2010 statistics: 66 TKL (49 solo), 10 SCK, 3 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF and 1 FR
He also attempted a PAT, nearly converted and reportedly makes julienne fries.
Suh goes by many titles following his rookie season. He garnered Defensive Rookie of the Year honors by a margin of 48 out of 50 votes. He was then named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year. A rookie Pro Bowl selection, he wasn’t able to participate due to arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
Ndamukong Suh is becoming a household name in Detroit and amongst the NFL community. He is no longer simply a player, but a brand.
He has stared himself down thanks to a bust made of deli meats created by the sandwich artisans of Subway and tackled quarterbacks in commercials for Dick’s Sporting Goods.
His celebrity is beginning to precede him. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where college recruits showcase their stuff, the Winter X-Games and the ESPN campus, Suh made appearances, seemingly holding a skeleton key to the sports world.
The Lions paid handsomely for their first pick of the draft's initial round to the tune of a five-year, $60 million contract. Suh receives $40 million guaranteed. Detroit would argue that he's worth every penny. Can anyone truly disagree?
Should Suh continue his winning ways, he may very well develop into Detroit’s answer to Chicago’s Michael Jordan. Suh is likely more aggressive in the paint, though.
LB Phillip Dillard: Round 4, No. 115 overall, New York Giants
2010 statistics: 4 TKL (3 solo)
Dillard’s rookie year was full of trials and tribulation.
He signed a four-year, $2.283 million contract before sustaining a hamstring injury versus New England in the Giants’ final preseason game. This cleared the way for Jonathan Goff to secure the starting MLB spot with Chase Blackburn as his backup.
Dillard didn’t see his first regular season time until a week nine away game versus the Seattle Seahawks.
It was difficult for him to dig his way out of the doghouse while at Nebraska. It will be even more difficult in the NFL.
Still, Dillard has the heart and passion to never quit. The only way that the Giants can stop him from fighting to attain the starting position is to release him. Should that happen, another franchise will surely give Dillard a shot and he will never stop working to become the best.
S Larry Asante: Round 5, No. 160 overall, Cleveland Browns
2010 statistics: 1 TKL (1 solo), 1 PBU, 1 INT
Asante’s training camp in Cleveland was regarded as poor by local media. The Browns brass agreed as they waived him on September 4, 2010.
On November 30, 2010, Tampa Bay liked what they saw in Larry and brought him in. After signing a four-year, $1.790 million contract, he made sure not to disappoint.
Asante didn’t start racking up stats until a Week 16 win over Seattle. He saved his best performance of the season for Week 17.
He snagged his first NFL interception in a 23-13 win over defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans.
While Asante’s rookie season was disappointing, the Bucs see something special in him. "I feel great, I'm really pumped up. It's a blessing for me to be here,” Asante told Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.
No rookie in the league matched what Suh did on or off the field in 2010, but Dillard and Asante can navigate the long paths each face that will take them to greatness. Both have the energy and desire to make that happen.
Nebraska will continue to fuel the NFL with quality talent as they will be sending the most players to the NFL combine during their final cycle as a member of the Big 12 conference.
Watch out, Big Ten. Bo Pelini isn't about to stop his mad quest to develop the most freakish athletes the Cornhuskers can offer.
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