The past four months of Nebraska football were filled with noise -- much of it argumentative, more of it speculative and almost all of it intended to make a statement about the direction of Bo Pelini’s program.
Even in the past week, as secondary coach Terry Joseph revealed his yet-to-be-finalized departure from Nebraska for a similar position at Texas A&M, speculation followed that Joseph was swayed by a lack of administrative support for Pelini and his coaches.
Leave it to Ameer Abdullah, the 20-year-old I-back who talks primarily through his gaudy statistics and nearly unrivaled determination, to make the most resounding statement yet.
Abdullah announced Thursday that he’ll return for his senior season in 2014, with a chance to become the first ever in a Nebraska uniform to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards for a third time.
We’ve heard plenty about the swirling negativity around Lincoln -- the fall from national prominence, lack of championships in the past decade-plus and hard-to-swallow losses.
Abdullah’s comments speak loudly to the positive aspects of the Nebraska program, far more so, in fact, than the conciliatory statements this fall of athletic director Shawn Eichorst in support of Pelini.
For if the ship was sinking in Lincoln, a golden bridge to the NFL existed for Abdullah to cross. His stock, after rushing for 1,690 yards as a junior, will likely never be higher. A running back’s life span is short. Another year of pounding, be it in the Big Ten West or the NFC East, brings Abdullah one year closer to the end of his career.
Yet he’s staying on board. It says something about him. It says something about Nebraska.
“It is truly an honor to play for this program,” Abdullah said near the beginning of his 392-word statement released through the school.
His comments showed pure class. Abdullah is the rare elite college athlete who appears genuinely humble and appreciative.
He spoke Thursday of his dream to play in the NFL. The youngest of nine children in a family of success stories, he chose the path that best keeps him on course to achieve his goals for a lifetime, not his dream for a short time.
It was difficult, for sure, turning down the NFL, especially after Abdullah watched over the past two seasons at Nebraska as injuries damaged the senior seasons of running mates Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez.
Pelini said in a statement that Abdullah handled this decision properly, as the coach expected.
“He stands for all the right things as a student-athlete,” the coach said.
Abdullah is Nebraska’s best player. He is the program’s hardest worker and locker-room leader. His presence in 2014, alongside a young quarterback and reshaped offensive line, provides an answer to many questions for these Huskers.
For a day and maybe longer into this offseason, Abdullah did what no one else could accomplish.
He quieted the noise.