The 2009 Associated Press National College Football Player of the Year and winner of the Lombardi, Outland, Bednarik, and the Nagurski football awards - Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh - announced Saturday at the Husker Spring Game that he will donate $2 million to Nebraska Athletics for its Strength and Conditioning Program and an additional $600,000 to the UNL College of Engineering to endow a scholarship.
A crowd of 77,936 cheered this unprecedented gift from an NU student-athlete who has yet to be drafted by the National Football League.
A defensive tackle who completed his collegiate football career, Suh graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Construction Management from the College of Engineering in December 2009. He is projected to be one of the top picks in the 2010 NFL draft after totaling 215 career tackles, including 57 for lost yardage, 24 sacks, six blocked kicks, 15 pass breakups and 38 quarterback hurries. He also scored three touchdowns - two on interceptions and one as a receiver on offense.
Suh is the most decorated defensive player ever to don the Husker uniform and finished fourth in the 2009 Heisman race. He is also the first former Husker player to commit a generous gift to the university in advance of the draft and his NFL career.
After he signs his NFL contract, Suh has pledged to give $2 million to athletics for renovations and updates in the North Stadium strength and conditioning center, where he spent so many hours training to become the best player he could be.
"I had a fantastic football career at Nebraska and thanks to my coaches and support staff, I have learned the value of hard work, teamwork and life skills," Suh said. "These skills will help me tremendously as I prepare for my career in the NFL. As a thank you to everyone in Nebraska who has assisted me on my collegiate journey, I want to donate $2 million to the Athletic Department.
Suh Sought Advice from Rozier, Pelini and Osborne
"When speaking with (former player) Guy Rozier, (Head) Coach Bo Pelini and (Athletic Director) Tom Osborne about the gift, I specifically asked that this gift be used to help other future Huskers as they train in the strength and conditioning center," Suh said. "This incredible facility helped me earn all the honors I was so privileged to receive this past season, and I believe this gift can help make this facility the very best in the country. This is my way to honor my teammates, coaches and fans by giving back to a program and a university that has given so much to me."
"This donation from Ndamukong Suh is the largest single gift we have received from a former player," Osborne said. "We appreciate Ndamukong's generosity to the athletic department, and we also appreciate his commitment to education, as he earned an Engineering degree, and appreciate the type of leadership he provided for our football team this past year. He is truly a credit to the football program and the university as a whole."
Paul Meyers, NU's Associate Athletic Director for Development, said: "Gifts from our former student-athletes send an important message. It re-enforces our hope that what we are doing here at Nebraska is making a difference in their lives beyond athletics."
Suh's $600,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation will benefit students enrolled in UNL's College of Engineering. Suh is a graduate of the Charles Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction in the College of Engineering.
Suh asked that students from his high school, Grant High School in Portland, Ore., be given first preference for the scholarship he is creating. He said he wanted to help out-of-state students who pay more to attend the University of Nebraska. Suh's gift will be endowed, which means the principal will be invested and the net income used to create scholarships. By making the gift endowed, the Ndamukong Suh Scholarship will exist in perpetuity.
Castner: Suh's Biggest Impact May Be Off the Field
"It says so much about Ndamukong Suh that one of his first acts as a graduate is one of giving back, and helping students who are in need of a scholarship to the University of Nebraska," said Clarence Castner, president of the University of Nebraska Foundation. "He is an inspiration and a role model. It may be that his biggest impact will occur off the field."
"The balance between athletics and academics is one-of-a-kind at Nebraska," Suh said. "That's the reason I came here, and that's the reason I wanted to support the College of Engineering. I wanted to make sure that other out-of-state students would have the same opportunities that I did at Nebraska. This is a great school and will hold a special place in my heart forever."
Academics have always been important to Suh's family. His father, Michael, is an engineer and his mother, Bernadette, a teacher. Bernadette insisted that her son maintain at least a 3.0 average before he could join his high school football team.
Suh said one of the primary reasons he chose Nebraska was its highly regarded engineering program, and the athletic department's strong focus on academics.
Nebraska has more Academic All-Americans than any other football team in the country and a 94-percent graduation rate among athletes who exhaust their athletic eligibility. That mark ranks as the highest in the Big 12 Conference.
Photo Courtesy Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications