OMAHA, Neb. -- The formal presentation of the Outland Trophy to Ndamukong Suh turned into a celebration of the career of one of college football's most decorated defensive players.
Suh, who could be the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft, was given a big send-off by more than 700 people, many sporting scarlet and cream, in a downtown Omaha hotel ballroom Thursday night.
"It was a tremendous experience with trials and tribulations, but it ended the best way possible," Suh said. "I've still got a lot to prove, but I felt I did as much as I could at Nebraska."
The Football Writers Association of America has awarded the Outland to the nation's top interior lineman since 1946. The formal presentation has been in Omaha for 13 years.
Suh also was The Associated Press national player of the year and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. He swept the Nagurski and Bednarik awards as national defensive player of the year, and also won the Lombardi Award for linemen.
As Nebraska coach Bo Pelini introduced Suh, he implored those in attendance to welcome him with the popular drawn-out "SOO" cheer that poured from the stands when he made big plays 50 miles away in Lincoln.
"I'll definitely miss hearing that chant you guys do," Suh said.
Suh choked up and stopped once to wipe away tears as he spoke, getting sentimental as he talked about how this would be the last time he would be among so many Husker fans.
"It's tremendous how far I've come these last five years," Suh said. "This is going to be with me the rest of my life."
He's been busy attending luncheons and dinners this week in advance of the Outland banquet. On Wednesday he visited Boys Town, the home for troubled youth, and appeared at an autograph session where 400 fans paid $50 apiece to meet Suh and get an item signed.
Few would argue that Suh could challenge 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers and 1994-95 national championship quarterback Tommie Frazier as the most popular Husker ever.
"Last year he told me, 'I want to have an impact on the University of Nebraska forever," Pelini said. "He said, 'I came here to make an impact and go down in history as someone who had a long-lasting impact on the program and be someone they'll be talking about forever.' He accomplished that."
Now it's back to a full training regimen for Suh, who said he plans to participate in all phases of next month's NFL scouting combine.
It's not uncommon for top prospects to pass on some or all parts of the combine out of concern that a poor performance could drop their draft stock.
"I have nothing to hide," Suh said before the banquet.
John Hicks, the 1973 Outland winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up as an offensive lineman for Ohio State, also received his trophy at the banquet.
Outland winners before 1990 did not get any hardware. Since the banquet has been held in Omaha, one of the pre-1990 winners has been honored along with the current year's winner.