The most decorated defensive player in college football history left Nebraska with every accolade available to him except one. Ndamukong Suh didn’t win a Heisman Trophy, but the man who re-injected the power into what a Nebraska Blackshirt can mean won almost every other available honor … an Outland, a Lombardi, a Nagurski, every All-American award available, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, the AP National Player of the Year, and on and on and on. Suh became the first three letters for SUHper-sizing everything. Who else in history commits millions of dollars to his alma mater before he was even drafted in the National Football League?
Suh cast a long shadow in college and, perhaps, an even longer one in the NFL. For anyone who thinks we will tackle the controversial side of Ndamukong Suh, think again. There’s no reason to go there, especially when you can zero in on all the things he’s doing right as an NFL SUHperstar. One of the most popular, if not the most popular Blackshirt in Nebraska football history, Suh has taken the biggest life lesson he learned at Nebraska and created a culture of giving in Detroit. Like Muhammad Ali, he sees service as the rent you pay for your room on earth. Like Arthur Ashe, he knows we can make a living by what we get, but can only make a life by what we give. Ndamukong Suh is proof that you can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want. We will count the ways we can reinforce that proof point, but first, let’s acknowledge the very root of the Ndamukong Suh Family Foundation that energizes and galvanizes an American city that may have gone bankrupt but not bust in terms of its drive and determination.
As physical as Suh is as a player, he has a softer side, and so much of what he’s giving back now has been influenced by his relationship with Kaden Schmale, a courageous young man Suh befriended while playing for the Huskers. Diagnosed with brain cancer at age 6, Kaden lost his 8½-year battle with that pediatric disease in early 2013. Suh, a prominent partner for the well-known Team Jack Foundation, hosted Kaden in his game day suite when the Lions had a riveting comeback win against the St. Louis Rams in the 2012 regular-season opener. Suh also surprised Kaden in his suite after the game and now hosts an individual or a group every game day in a program called SUHper Stars, which was launched and continues to be executed in Kaden’s honor.
The Mission of Suh’s foundation is to “strive for philanthropic success in the community” through programming and considerable donations to education, health and wellness, nutrition and international outreach. Ndamukong and his sister, Ngum, established the family foundation in 2010. As Suh’s career grew, so did his giving platform. His most prominent donation to date, of course, is $2.6 million to the University of Nebraska. But let’s look at the difference his generosity is making in a dozen different ways:
1) SUH’s Crew … Ndamukong hosts groups of children as his personal guests during preseason training camp. It’s an up-close and personal experience that asks kids to fill out a form and tell the foundation why it would be meaningful for them.
2) SUHsday … In Detroit, Tuesdays are SUHsdays because the Lions don’t practice on that day, enabling Ndamukong to reach out and touch the Motor City in every way imaginable.
3) SUHper Stars Game Day Experience … For each home game, the Suh family foundation selects an individual or a group for a special game day experience. Recipients can be chosen through partners like Make-a-Wish, from a story that Suh heard while reaching out in the community or from submissions filtered through his official website, which offers visitors a chance to go Inside the Huddle and win a chance to interview Ndamukong. This particular offering honors Kaden, his little buddy.
4) 90 Backpack Program … Each August, No. 90 identifies 90 students most in need from his target area and donates backpacks that equip them to succeed. The only condition is in exchange for the backpacks, students are asked to sign an Unofficial SUH’s Scholars agreement that encourages them to do their best in school, at home and among friends.
5) Suh Scholarship … As a graduate of UNL’s College of Engineering, Suh has set up an endowment to send a student to the University of Nebraska on a full-ride engineering scholarship.
6) Attendance Challenge … Suh had to change some of his habits to achieve what he did at Nebraska, and now he wants to inspire fourth-grade students to develop positive habits at school. Students must attend class every day for a month to be put in drawing for a SUHperstar Game Day Experience.
7) CAMPSUH … CAMP SUH is a youth football camp which provides both large and small camp size football training. The goal is to learn the fundamentals of the game. Emphasis is placed on teamwork, leadership, effort, and responsibility. Suh plans to expand this experience beyond Detroit and take CAMP SUH to Lincoln and Portland, his hometown in Oregon.
8) Impact Camp at CAMPSUH … Impact Camp is designed to provide the same kind of camp experience to potential greats who may not be able to attend CAMPSUH due to cost. The family foundation select the potential candidates based on the greatest need.
9) Breast Cancer Awareness Month inspired by his Aunt Grace … Inspired by his Aunt Grace’s battle with breast cancer, No. 90 sponsored an inaugural 90 Women in Pink event this month in Detroit to honor women affected by breast cancer. Suh’s aunt completed her Master’s degree in business a month after chemotherapy treatments, Suh’s foundation spreads breast cancer awareness in conjunction with the National Football League’s initiatives.
10) Suh’s Annual Toy Giveaway … Every year during the holiday season, Suh’s foundation partners with the Detroit Medical Center to bring smiles to children in metro Detroit. So far, more than 1,000 toys have been delivered.
11) Girls with Goals … Ngum Suh, Ndamukong’s sister and the director of the Suh Family Foundation, created Girls with Goals. The mission is to increase young women’s participation in team sports and to promote the necessary steps towards their secondary education. Girls with Goals also seeks to encourage student-athletes to strive for academic success, follow their dreams, set a good example for others and succeed at achieving their goals. The program launched at the high school level at the Detroit International Academy for Young Women.
12) International Education Center … Nine years ago, the Suh family started a foundation in Ndamukong’s father’s hometown of Bamenda, Cameroon. Three years ago, the Suh Family Foundation officially adopted the school and donates electronic equipment, books, paper, student uniforms and other items of greatest need on an annual basis. The 119-student school is comparable to elementary schools. A year ago, the foundation also began donating items needed in Spanish Town, Kingston and other Jamaican cities.
That’s creative giving by the dozen, but it’s safe to say that Ndamukong Suh and his family are always on the lookout for more. It’s in his mission, in his heart and in his mind. No. 90 has made a habit of finding ways to help people who really need it, and here’s hoping that doesn’t stop any time soon.
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