LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Ameer Abdullah says this is no time for him to celebrate his personal achievements, not with six weeks left in the regular season.
So don't bother asking him what he thinks about being the first Nebraska player to post three 1,000-yard rushing seasons, or about becoming the school's No. 2 all-time leading rusher, or about scoring a career-high four touchdowns against Northwestern over the weekend.
"It doesn't mean anything if we don't win the rest of these games," Abdullah said.
The senior from Homewood, Alabama, has often said that few people will remember his statistics when his college career is over. If all goes according to his plan, he said he'll be remembered for helping lead the Cornhuskers (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) to their first conference championship since 1999.
"He wants to win. That's all Ameer has on his mind," coach Bo Pelini said. "Ameer has high standards for himself, but at the end of the day he wants to win football games. That's why he came back. That's who he is. If he ran for 20 yards and we won a football game, he wouldn't blink an eye."
Abdullah became a serious Heisman Trophy candidate after he ran for more than 200 yards in three of the first five games. His stock dropped a bit when he was limited to 45 yards on 24 carries in a loss to Michigan State, but he came back to run 23 times for 146 yards and those four TDs in a 38-17 win over Northwestern on Saturday.
That performance increased his rushing totals to 1,024 yards for the season and 4,001 for his career. If the Huskers play a minimum of six more games, he would need to average 130 yards to break Mike Rozier's school record of 4,780. The Huskers host Rutgers on Saturday.
Nebraska has ramped up its promotion of Abdullah for postseason accolades. Playing off Abdullah's jersey No. 8 and his initials, the school sent awards voters an eight-pack of AA batteries. The red-and-white packet features a picture of Abdullah and says, "Powering Nebraska football since 2011."
"I have mixed feelings about them," Abdullah said. "They're cool to look at, (but) most things nowadays don't need batteries like that. You can charge it up. It's a little outdated, I guess."
Other than saying he appreciates the publicity department's efforts on his behalf, he doesn't acknowledge the buzz surrounding him.
That humility is what makes him so likable to his teammates, especially the offensive linemen.
"They're always picking on me because I'm small," the 5-foot-9, 195-pounder said, laughing. "They try to pick me up and mess with me. I definitely love those dudes, and being a senior I'm really cherishing things like that."
His roommate, cornerback Josh Mitchell, said he and the other guys they live with like to rib Abdullah about how he has his own brand of batteries. They also tease him about the band spelling out "Fear Ameer" on the field at halftime of the Illinois game.
Abdullah takes it all in stride.
When they watch sports programs on television and his name comes up, Mitchell said, Abdullah doesn't react.
"He doesn't really care about any of that stuff," Mitchell said. "He just likes to play football. That's it."
Abdullah's comportment has thrust him into ambassador's role for the college game. An Academic All-Big Ten pick, the history major is on track to join each of his eight older siblings as a college graduate. He was praised for his speech at July's Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago, where he talked about education being the pathway for a person to reach his or her full potential.
Last month, he told reporters that troubled 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston needed to change his ways and act more responsibly. The two are friends who trained at the same gym in Birmingham, Alabama, and attended the same football camps in high school.
"Ameer's a one-of-a-kind player," offensive lineman Alex Lewis said. "He's humble, friendly to everybody. He's always asking how your day is. On the field he's a quiet player. He's there to do his job. Having a guy like him on the team makes a world of difference."
*** Posted by Josh Harvey ***