OMAHA -- Somehow, it seemed only fitting that the most decorated player in Nebraska football history shared the stage here Thursday night with two of his fellow Blackshirts at the Downtown Doubletree Hotel.
Ndamukong Suh received both Nebraska's Chamberlin Trophy and the national Outland Trophy at a sold-out banquet where teammates Phil Dillard and Matt O'Hanlon also were honored before 700 enthusiastic Husker fans.
Dillard received Nebraska's 2009 Tom Novak Award and safety Matt O'Hanlon received the 2009 Cletus Fischer Native Son Award.
"It's about the big picture. No one's bigger than the team, and he (Suh), as much as anybody, if not moreso, understands that," Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini said the day before he presented Suh with the Outland, awarded annually to the best college football interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
"You just listen to him (Suh) all year long," Pelini said. "Everybody would try to talk about him, and he'd be more interested in talking about Jared Crick and Barry Turner and Pierre Allen and Baker Steinkuhler and all the other guys around him."
Including Dillard and O'Hanlon, who also played major roles in a Blackshirt defense that led the nation this past season in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.
Dillard received the Tom Novak Award for exemplifying "the courage and determination despite all odds" in the manner of Nebraska All-America Center Tom Novak, who also played fullback and linebacker and is still Nebraska's only four-time all-conference selection. NU Linebacker Coach Mike Ekeler introduced Dillard at the Outland banquet.
O'Hanlon received the Cletus Fischer Native Son Award from his position coach, Marvin Sanders. Nebraska coaches select the Native Son Award winner on the basis of a player who "best exemplifies work ethic, competitiveness, leadership and a love of Nebraska" - all qualities demonstrated daily by the late Clete Fischer, NU's offensive line coach from 1959-85.
Even though Suh is the most decorated lineman in both Nebraska and college football history, the Guy Chamberlin Trophy was meaningful because it has been awarded for 33 years in memory of former Husker All-American Guy Chamberlin. Nebraska Defensive Coordinator Carl Pelini introduced Suh. The Chamberlin Trophy is awarded to the senior player who exemplifies the qualities and dedication of Chamberlin, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1962 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Suh, Bo Pelini said, "bought in" to the Nebraska way of doing things. "I think the light came on (this season)," Pelini said. "Obviously, he's always had talent. Then he started developing that talent, and he started growing in many different ways. He matured both as a football player and outside of football. He became a selfless player and all about team. Not that he was ever selfish, but his maturity led him to the point where he is."
According to Pelini, Suh "stayed grounded, stayed humble and stayed hungry" throughout his intense focus to become the player he is.
"You know, to be one of the best, you have to be uncommon," Pelini said. "That means you have to never be satisfied. He (Suh) understands that, but he also understands that it's not all about him. At the end of the day, that (philosophy) is going to make you a more complete player and a more complete representative of the organization you're in."
Tom Osborne, a Hall-of-Fame Coach whose teams won three national championships in 25 years, was the banquet's first featured speaker. Earlier, Nebraska's athletic director said Suh is "probably the most decorated lineman we've had here and deservedly so. For a lineman, he probably dominated things more than anybody that I've seen at Nebraska or maybe anybody in college football."
Osborne pointed to Suh earning his bachelor's degree in construction management in Engineering in four years instead of the usual five.
"He's very well grounded in terms of his maturity, his intelligence and his outlook on life," Osborne said of Suh. "He's been a great representative of the university, and we're really proud of him. Everyone knows he'll do very well in the NFL draft. I hope he has a great career, but if he doesn't, for some reason where injury or whatever intervenes, this guy is going to do well for the rest of his life."