Former Nebraska and current Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah was in Lincoln for Saturday's spring game, but not as one of a number of past Husker greats who get together each year around this time. For the second straight year, Abdullah was working as part of the Big Ten Network, doing color commentary alongside Kevin Kugler and Damon Benning as part of the broadcasting crew.
"It's a lot of fun for me," Ameer Abdullah said in an interview with Chris Schmidt of Hail Varsity Radio. "It's a different perspective to call a game as opposed to obviously playing it. It just seemed two different eras in the years that I've done it."
Schematically Abdullah said he saw about what he expected from a Scott Frost offense after catching some Central Florida games last fall, noting that there were some similar elements to what Nebraska ran under offensive coordinator Tim Beck during Abdullah's time in Lincoln. Defense was more of a different look.
But it wasn't the biggest difference.
"What I appreciated is definitely that I feel like the psychology of the players is different," Abdullah said. "They're a lot more focused. I feel like they're a lot more result-driven. They approach each day to get better. That's definitely good to see.
"But of course the reality is they were 4-8 last year. A lot of those guys are returning, so there's a lot of improvement to be made, which, you know, Scott has been articulate about. He's demanding those guys to challenge themselves and get better every day."
That approach to motivation wouldn't have been a problem for Abdullah, who had many of the same traits throughout his life as a football player. The Alabama native finished his four-year career at Nebraska (2011-14) as the Huskers' second-leading career rusher, trailing only Heisman Trophy-winner Mike Rozier. Abdullah's Nebraska teams won 70 percent of their games over that span, a level of consistency the Huskers hope to hit again under this new regime.
Getting there, according to Abdullah, will require this program to confront its rough and recent past while not being consumed by it.
"It was a reality check [last year] for a lot of these guys who were so used to being consistent winners," Abdullah said. "Last year was rough, one of the low points in Nebraska football history, and I don't shy away from saying it because that's reality. A lot of times people want to speak kindly about the reality of things so you don't step on anyone's toes or to be nice, but in order to change and get better we've all got to face reality.
"I've got realities I've got to face as well. And that's something I really respect about Scott Frost. I respect that he's definitely instilled in these kids' minds that the reality is in front of us, but at the same time that's the past. A lot of things that [this team] is going to be about are all in front of them. They can decide right now, each and every day, who they want to be."
One of the realities Abdullah is facing on a professional front is that he's entering the final year of his rookie contract with the Lions. After missing most of the 2016 season with an injury, Abdullah returned to play 14 games in 2017 and led the Lions with 552 rushing yards.
He has also been involved this April, for the second straight year, with the Youth Leadership and Diversity Education Program to help raise bottled water and monetary donations for Flint water crisis relief. According to its website, YLDEP is an organization for Detroit-area high school coaches aimed to equip them "with invaluable 21st century skills that will allow them to change themselves and the world through service."
To hear the complete interview with Abdullah, tune in to Hail Varsity Radio Tuesday.
The Grab Bag
- Former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer has some concerns about the future of football at the college level.
- Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com on how Scott Frost has renewed hope at Nebraska.
- So Alabama's spring game was interesting with Nick Saban caught on mic letting his feelings be known about quarterback Jalen Hurts' ability to move the offense.
- ICYMI: Jacob Padilla identifies some of the walk-ons who won in the spring game, Derek Peterson takes a close look at the running backs and Greg Smith caught up with a couple of spring-game visitors, 4-star DE Ty Robinson and 3-star DB Jayden Russell.
Today's Song of Today