NFL draft diary: Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah shocked by Chris Borland news
USA TODAY Sports has assembled a talented team of prospects to chronicle their paths to the NFL draft. Today's entry is from decorated Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who rushed for 1,611 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior in 2014.
I was talking to a couple scouts, and they were asking me, 'Who do you think is the best player you've ever played against?' I played against guys like (Michigan State's) Shilique Calhoun. I played against (Michigan State's) Kurtis Drummond. I played against (Miami, Fla.'s) Denzel Perryman. I played against (USC's) Leonard Williams, who might be the first pick in this draft. And without hesitation, I said, 'Chris Borland' (formerly of Wisconsin and the San Francisco 49ers).
His retirement was really shocking, because I feel like he was smart about how he tackled and how he pursued the ball and his angles and his leverage on his point of contact. He had a heck of a rookie year in the NFL. But you never know someone, what they have going on personally. I know he has a lot that he can do in life other than football, which is great. I wish him well.
Fortunately, I haven't gotten to that point where the risk of football deters my aspiration for this game. I have so much more I want to accomplish out there. I love this game so much. My brother Muhammad, who's also my agent, asked me the other day, 'Would you play this game for free?' Without a doubt, I was like, 'Oh yeah, for sure.' It registered with me how much passion I have and how much more I have to give to this game.
I consider myself a pretty smart runner. I'm never really taking direct shots. I learned that from watching guys like Barry Sanders, Warrick Dunn and Marshall Faulk. Barry Sanders might have 250 carries in an NFL season — that's a lot of carries — but he never seemed to wear down because he never let a defense get direct shots on him. He always found a way to get tackled at an angle, so he's not taking that much of a pounding.
I've learned that in order to play this game a long time, you have to be crafty in what you do. You can't always be a bulldozer. There's a time and a place for that, and I've shown throughout my career that I'm a tough runner inside, and I can drop my hat and run some people over. But it's not always about that.
My pro day went really well. I improved on my 40-yard dash tremendously — the most consistent time I heard was a mid-4.4 — so that was really good. I got another chance to go out there and do field drills. When we started on the 40, I stripped off the shirt. You get a couple 'oohs' and 'aahs'. Until they see me in person, a lot of people can get a misconception about what kind of player I am physically. I think I impressed a lot of people with my physique. I'm a lot stronger than a lot of people thought, a lot more strongly built than a lot of people thought.
I'm back home in Birmingham, Ala., for a couple days, and then I'll be back in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend. At this point, all you can really do is wait, be patient and work out.
I'm lucky enough to know a lot of guys that came through this process before me. They let me know once you get drafted, you say your goodbyes, you head right to minicamp, and you hit the ground running. So you want to make sure you're in shape and sustain your energy throughout the next offseason, because for us rookies, we start earl,y and we're still going to finish the same time that the veterans finish. It's going to be pretty much nonstop after the draft.
I read a lot, too. I was a history major, and a guy at one of my events just gave me a book on ancient Greece and how society began to advance through Western civilization. I sound like a nerd. But you never want to stop reading, because you keep your mind sharp. It keeps you alert.
Follow Ameer Abdullah on Twitter at @Ameerguapo