Husker great Glover sees endless potential in Suh

Husker great Glover sees endless potential in Suh

Published Oct. 15, 2009 8:49 p.m. ET

Suh has heard the stories of how Glover was a one-man game-changer in the middle of Nebraska's defensive line.

How, in his relentless pursuit, Glover could shed blockers like they were minor inconveniences on his way to quarterbacks and ball carriers.

How Glover made 22 tackles in the 1971 "Game of the Century" against Oklahoma and was a Heisman Trophy finalist the next year.

"He," Suh said, "was an animal."


Glover knows about Suh, too.

He watched from his home in Jersey City, N.J., last week as Suh took over last week's game at Missouri, a performance that pushed the senior to the front of the pack of Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award candidates.

Suh earned a host of national player-of-the-week honors after forcing a fumble with a sack, recording three quarterback hurries and making six tackles in a 27-12 win. His biggest play, though, was an interception that led to 15th-ranked Nebraska's go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Suh's name is pronounced "en-DOM-uh-ken Soo," and fewer folks in college football are botching it these days.

"If he keeps working," Glover said, "he can be the player of his time."

Glover was undoubtedly the defensive player of his time, sweeping the Outland and Lombardi in 1972 and making a total of 192 tackles his last two seasons. His coach, Bob Devaney, called him the greatest defensive player he had ever seen.

As a past Lombardi winner, Glover is among the award's voters. Suh, who wasn't even on the Lombardi's preseason watch list, is at the top of Glover's ballot and among the 12 Lombardi semifinalists announced Wednesday.

The comparisons between Glover and Suh are unavoidable.

Glover was a middle guard, a position that evolved into the nose tackle spot Suh plays.

But Glover is 6-foot-1, and he played at 235 pounds. Suh is 6-4 and 300, and a rare combination of power and finesse. He does things that guys his size aren't supposed to do.

"I played with heart and desire," Glover said. "He's all about speed, quickness and size."

Glover and Suh have never met, but they are kindred spirits.

When Glover was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995, he was called "the dominant play-wrecker of his time."

Suh, to be sure, wrecks a lot of plays in his time.

He started his senior season as the Big 12's preseason defensive player of the year. Five games in, his name is being bandied not just for lineman awards but for the ultimate one, the Heisman.

Suh said the attention is "all good and gravy," but he said his upbringing won't allow him to bask in it.

"I have a grounded family and success is not something that should be new. It should be expected," he said. "Along with that success, things are going to get a little more hyped up."

The hype comes from Suh's freakish accomplishments.

A nose tackle isn't supposed to lead his team in tackles, but Suh does, with 32 heading into Saturday's game against Texas Tech.

A nose tackle isn't supposed to lead his team in pass breakups, but Suh does. In fact, his 1.6 per game ranks sixth in the nation.

A nose tackle isn't supposed to be so much of a factor when he drops into pass coverage, but Suh has four career interceptions and 12 breakups.

He is also projected by some experts to be a possible top-five pick in next year's NFL draft.

"No matter how good your offensive line is, it's a task to be able to handle him," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I can't imagine there are many defensive tackles in the country better than him."

Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan recruited Suh out of Portland, Ore. Suh had two position coaches his first three years in the program, delaying his development.

He blossomed last season under coach Bo Pelini and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini. He became the first lineman to lead Nebraska in tackles since 1973. He also ran back two interceptions for touchdowns, including the game-clincher against Colorado.

Suh decided against entering the NFL draft and returned for a fifth year at Nebraska. There have been no regrets.

Suh said the Pelini brothers have given him a greater understanding of how to read and break down offenses and how to mentally prepare for games. When he leaves after this season, he'll be ready.

Glover said even though Suh is off to a great start this season, he'll be judged on how he performs in the big games still to come, including Nov. 7 against Oklahoma.

"If he wants to top Rich Glover and get 23 tackles that day," Glover said, "he can do it. I hope he uses that to motivate him, to say 'I'm going to play like Rich Glover, and I'm going to be better than Rich Glover."'