No. 18: Lions DT Ndamukong Suh


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JIM BROWN: I love Ndamukong Suh. I would take him and mold him and create a Frankenstein monster. I would want him on my defense, but I would mold him. He is a throwback because they are trying to determine so many things about the physical part of the game right now and I don't know if they can do it. You want guys who will mix it up, but you don't want stupidity. You are looking for monsters who are going to bring it, and that is who Suh is. He's feared and respected in the league.


LARRY CSONKA: You could put Ndamukong Suh next to Mean Joe Greene or Bubba Smith or back with some of those devastating D-linemen from the '70s and he'd fit right in. Suh's mean enough to land on his feet wherever you put him. He is a classic tough guy. He belongs back with us. Dick Butkus could tackle our quarterback, Bob Griese, back behind the bench and not be penalized. That's where he belonged, and Suh would have loved our era.


MIKE SINGLETARY: Ndamukong Suh is just nasty. He is just a nasty guy. I love his mentality. He can rip your face off. That's the kind of guy he is. He's a young guy, but he sets the tempo for that team. If they didn't have him, they'd be a totally different team. He is the mindset of that whole team.


JAMES LOFTON: I think the other thing that jumps out about guys we've picked is that they're physical marvels. They're bigger. They're stronger. They're a little faster than their predecessors. Suh's a little quicker, a little stronger. Perhaps it's because that's what you're looking for with defensive tackles today.

But the nastiness that he plays with is a nastiness that you see when you see a Dick Butkus or a Ray Nitschke highlight. Yeah, he is trying to twist the guy's head off, but from that standpoint, his attitude goes well with the '50s, '60s, '70s. You had a complaint about a guy, you paid him back on the next play.



For Suh, adjusting to the long NFL season and to the rules that govern the season have provided not only a physical challenge, but a mental challenge as well.

My toughest moment as a player was making the transition of understanding the new rules of the NFL, how to play the game at this level and going through a long season. You go through a college season and play 14 games and at the end, it still feels like you just started. You play 20-something games like this year -- including the preseason -- and it becomes a huge grind. If you aren't mentally tough, it will wear on you.

People call that the rookie wall. I never hit a rookie wall and haven't hit a sophomore wall, but it's tough. You have to have tough skin in this game, especially being the kind of player I am and getting the kind of media attention I get. I got a lot of flak for things this year and just being able to stay mentally focused and tough through it all was hard.

I remember Tony Gonzalez did an interview before this season when he was deciding if he was going to come back for another year. He was like, "Physically, my body is ready. But mentally, I need to figure out if I am ready to come back. It's mentally draining coming through an NFL season." And I agree. I was only in my first year last season and I came straight from college, working out non-stop getting ready for the combine and then straight into training camp and the NFL, no rest, and that was my toughest year.

ESPN THE MAGAZINE: Dirty? HOFers have another word for Suh: throwback



As a rookie, Suh established himself as one of the best young defensive tackles to enter the league. Like all the greats, he's unblockable when he wants to be. Suh must stand the test of time, but I'd compare him to Bob Lilly, the Hall of Famer for the Dallas Cowboys.

CLAYTON ON HALL OF FAME CHANCES: Not yet. Suh must pad that resume.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN



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Additional reporting by ESPN The Magazine's Morty Ain, Louise Cornetta, Amy Parlapiano and Alyssa Roenigk.