150 tackles as a junior from the linebacker position. Yeah, that's pretty good. Ok, 129 tackles as a senior. Well, what happened there? That's 21 tackles less. Yes, that's true, but Jeff Souder went from being linebacker, Jeff Souder basically to playing any position they would let him and he responded quite well.
Adding to the 129 tackles which includes 9 sacks along with 2 interceptions, a blocked kick and a fumble recovery, Souder decided he'd try his skill out at the running back position.
Try almost 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns as the result. Add another 112 yards to that in receiving and you basically have a kid that simply put, can do it all.
The funny thing about running back, though, is that before he actually did it, Souder didn't have toting the ball around like Walter Payton as his goal. His was a little simpler. "I wanted to knock some heads around playing full back or something." Jeff said. "I love to hit and I asked the coach if I could play fullback so I could get to hit more people."
There's your slogan for Souder if you are so inclined to give him one and it speaks of a mind-set that is even simpler by nature. He sees the ball and if you are the one with that particular ball, his 6'1" 205 lbs. frame is coming at you with abandon. "I don't know man, I can't describe it." He said. "I love hitting people. I have always loved it. After the first couple of games this year, players kept trying to take me out at my shins, but I'd get some that tried to take me up high and that's when the adrenaline gets going."
"I used to be just concerned about wrapping up, but that's everybody. When I was young, I'd just wrap their legs up and they'd fall down. Now, I hit them so they fly on their back."
There's a statement there as you might imagine, the same one every defensive player wants to make the second they hit the field. Basically putting it, if you come into my area of the field, you aren't going to like it and by the way, every area is mine.
That kind of ownership and ferocity at defending that territory is seemingly instinctive to some players, but most definitely is to the athlete that Souder idolizes right now. "John Lynch, that's my idol man." Souder said. "Always has been, always will be. That guy can lay the wood."
The free safety for the Denver Broncos is renowned for his brand of ferocity on the field, but Souder's idols aren't constrained to those on the defensive side of the ball. There's one more player that actually played Jeff's other position, someone who while being an offensive guy was no less ferocious than Lynch ever imagined he could be. "Walter Payton is definitely another idol of mine." Souder said. "Watching that documentary on him, him running those hills and that stiff arm he used to give people, that guy was amazing."
If you are seeing a common denominator here, you are viewing just the outside of what Souder calls everything that makes him up inside. It's that ferocity, tenacity, drive and ambition all rolled up into one. That's why he's done what he's done thus far and the second he steps on the field as a Husker, that's what ha plans to do. "Everything I got, that's what I am giving." He said. "It's going to be so great, surrounded by all these great players, great athletes, they are just going to make me better."
"And, I am going to be better, I'm going to be bigger, faster, whatever it takes, because I am going to work like crazy to earn one of those "blackshirts".
Souder will be wearing a different shirt once he arrives on campus, a greyshirt he'll don for now. That is a title denoting the fact that Souder's scholarship won't start in 2005, rather it will begin in 2006. It's ok with him though, because this Nebraska kid has waited this long, another year isn't going to bother him a bit.
Being a resident of the state of Nebraska for most of his life, Souder has become all too familiar with what one of those coveted black jerseys looks like and what it means. He knows in his mind what it represents and all of it put together is what he plans on bringing to NU. "You can't be second and get one of those." He said. "You've got to be better than the next guy, so you have to work harder than the next guy, train more, do more, just anything and everything you can do, that's what you have to do."
"I'm already like that now, but once I get there, man, there's no telling what the coaches can make me."
Bigger is actually what Souder is looking forward to the most, because while he's a perfectly capable and hearty weight to play free or strong safety, Jeff has his eyes on a different position, one that he said head coach, Bill Callahan stated suited his instincts for the game. "He said I've got the instincts to play linebacker." Jeff said. "And, I ‘m telling you, you get me up to 220 or 225 pounds, man, that's going to be dangerous for the guy carrying the ball."
Looking at his yards rushing as a senior for Bellevue West, you might wonder if only for a second about his own wishes to carry the "rock" as they say. Don't even think twice, because as you have probably gathered, it's not the rock that he's worried about carrying, but the wood he's delivering on Saturdays. "There's just nothing like really getting a hit on someone." He said. "You hit them just right and it's not like you even notice it. You just go right through the guy and you don't even realize sometimes how hard you hit them until they aren't getting up real fast."
We could probably do an entire piece here, dubbing it the "art of hitting", but Souder is only worried about painting one picture when he arrives at NU. Deferred scholarship or not, the image he wants to portray for everyone when he gets there is someone that isn't about what they've done, but all about what they are going to do.
"You want to be a blackshirt, that takes everything you have." He said "It's an honor to get it, but they only give that out to the best. And, there are some serious players you have to beat out to get that. That's my goal. That's what I want to be and I know what I have to do to get it. "
It's kind of funny when you look at Nebraska's recruiting class thus far. Up until very recently, it's been nothing but out-of-state commits. While Souder acknowledges how good each must be, he's proud of the fact that his goals are already clearly defined.
He doesn't look at being just a success. He doesn't look at just being better than everyone else. He looks at being at Nebraska with eyes that only a Nebraskan can see with and that's combining that success and that achievement of being the best and wrapping it all up in a little scarlet and cream.
"That's where I have always wanted to be." Jeff said. "You see them play, you want to be them. I thought when I was a kid that it wasn't realistic to think I could be there and do what they are doing. Now, I'm ready to give it all I got."
"I grew up loving it and just the chance to be one of those guys, you can't go out there and not give everything you have. It's impossible. I'm going to go in there crazy, just loving it and trying like crazy to get that blackshirt. That's what I want and I am the only one that can stop me."