Abdullah's climbing the ranks
Ameer Abdullah (Getty Images)
Ameer Abdullah (Getty Images)
Publisher
Posted Jan 15, 2014


Ameer Abdullah will return for his senior season, but what if he had decided to turn pro? What does his current legacy look like? Big Red Report takes a look at the running back position and ranks our top ten in program history.


LINCOLN, Neb. - Last week Nebraska junior running back Ameer Abdullah announced he would be back for his senior season. With the decision, the Huskers again will have one of the strongest Big Ten rushing attacks in 2014.

In three seasons, Abdullah has 2,977 rushing yards - good for No. 8 all-time on the Nebraska career rushing list. While it’s unlikely he will pass former Heisman trophy winner Mike Rozier on the top career-rushing chart, barring injury Abdullah should graduate next year No. 2 all-time. He would pass players like Ahman Green, Roy Helu Jr., Eric Crouch, and Rex Burkhead in the process.

It’s also very likely Abdullah will become Nebraska’s career all-purpose yardage leader next season. He’s only 812 yards behind Johnny Rodgers for the top spot.

But what if Abdullah’s college career had ended last week? What if the former Alabama prepster had decided to move on to the NFL?

Where would he have ranked at his position all-time at Nebraska?

Two years ago Big Red Report released our top ten players at each position in Nebraska football history. We compiled the list multiple ways, including talking to many former Huskers. We have decided it’s time to update our list. Despite just being a junior, we are going to include Abdullah on it, even though in the past we left off current players.

#1 Mike Rozier


Mike Rozier
(NU Media Relations)

(1981-1983)
5-foot-11 / 210 pounds
Camden, N.J.

Rozier became Nebraska’s second Heisman Trophy winner when he rushed for a school-record 2,148 yards and 29 touchdowns in 1983. He still holds those records along with NU’s career rushing record with 4,780 yards. Rozier was a bull in a china shop, running over and around defenders, becoming one of the best college running backs of all-time. Against Kansas State his senior year, Rozier rushed for 230 yards in the first half, before finishing the game with 285. His consistency over the course of his career gets him the nod at No. 1.



#2 Lawrence Phillips


Lawrence Phillips
(Getty Images)

(1993-1995)
6-foot / 220 pounds
West Covina, CA

If Phillips hadn’t gotten suspended in 1995, he probably would have won the Heisman Trophy and been the greatest running back in Nebraska football history. After rushing for over 1,700 yards as a sophomore, Phillips was primed for a monster junior year, but because of his suspension, he played in only five games, and finished with 568 yards. In spite of all this, he is still listed in the Top 10 all-time on the NU career rushing list. Possibly his most memorable performance was in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, where he ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns against No. 2 Florida.



#3 Ahman Green


Ahman Green
(Getty Images, Collegiate Images)

(1995-1997)
6-foot / 215 pounds
Omaha, NE

Green was one of the fastest running back in Husker history. He rushed for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman in 1995 and finished with close to 1,900 as a junior in 1997, helping NU win the national championship both years. Green bypassed his senior year to enter the NFL Draft, giving-up a legitimate chance to surpass Rozier on the all-time career rushing chart. So Green remains No. 2 trailing Rozier by 900 yards. It's likely he will have some competition from Ameer Abdullah in the near future on the career rushing chart. Green finished his degree in 2003 from the University.



#4 Doug DuBose


Doug DuBose
(NU Media Relations)

(1983-85)
5-foot-11 / 190 pounds
Uncasville, CT

DuBose was the first Husker to rush for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore and junior at NU, garnering first-team All-Big 8 honors both years. Those that played with DuBose described him as a smooth runner. Former Husker quarterback Steve Taylor had this to say about his former teammate: “If he didn’t get injured he could have been the best back ever at Nebraska.” DuBose, a strong preseason Heisman candidate, tore his ACL causing him to miss his entire senior season in 1986.



#5 Jarvis Redwine


Jarvis Redwine
(NU Media Relations)

(1979-1980)
5-foot-11 / 204 pounds
Inglewood, CA

Redwine not only had a cool name for a Husker running back, but the ability to back it up. A transfer from Oregon State, he only had two years at NU, but rushed for over 1,000 yards in both, averaging over 7.0 yards per carry. Redwine was a first-team All-Big Eight selection in ’79 and ’80 and a first-team All-American as a senior. Playing with a broken rib through most of his final year dashed any Heisman hopes. He twice won the Hinky-Dinky award for Most Popular Cornhusker.



#6 Calvin Jones


Calvin Jones
(NU Media Relations)

(1991-1993)
5-foot-11 / 210 pounds
Omaha, NE

Jones had one of the best freshman seasons ever by a Husker I-back in 1991, finishing with a then school-record 900 yards and leading the Big Eight conference in scoring with 8.4 points per game. He also ran for a Nebraska game record 294 yards and an NU and Big Eight record six touchdowns. Sharing the backfield duties with fellow I-back Derek Brown cut into Jones’s rushing totals in ’91 and ’92 and then saw his junior season hampered by a knee injury. A two-time All-Big Eight pick, Jones left for the NFL Draft after his junior season.



#7 Bobby Reynolds


Bobby Reynolds
(NU Media Relations)

(1950-1952)
5-foot-11 / 180 pounds
Grand Island, NE

Reynolds was a first-team All-American in 1950 helping the Huskers to its first winning season since 1940. He set a new school rushing record of 1,342 yards and 22 touchdowns that season in only nine games, and set an NCAA player record for most points scored per game with 17.4. His single season rushing and touchdown records would hold up for more than 30 years. Injuries would derail Reynolds’s productivity in his next two seasons. In 1984 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He might not make everyone's list, but is well deserving of a spot.



#8 Ameer Abdullah


Ameer Abdullah
(Getty Images)

(2011 - present)
5-foot-9 / 190 pounds
Homewood, AL

Most of Abdullah’s damage has come in the past two seasons, rushing for at least 1,125 yards in back-to-back years. During his freshman, behind Rex Burkhead, Abdullah only rushed for 150 yards. It’s hard to imagine what Abdullah might have accomplished in his career if he had redshirted in 2011. Don’t be surprised to see a revised list this time next year that features the future NFL prospect higher on the list. The biggest question entering his senior year will be can he avoid the injury bug? Nebraska's last two high-profile seniors (Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead), both struggled to stay healthy.



#9 Ken Clark


Ken Clark
(NU Media Relations)

(1987-1989)
5-foot-10 / 200 pounds
Omaha, NE

Clark’s 1,497 yards as a junior in ’88 is the fifth-best single-season rushing total in Husker history. “Ken didn’t get the recognition he deserved,” NU running backs coach Frank Solich said. “He probably had as quiet a 1,500 yards as you’re going to see.” A two-time All-Big Eight selection (1988,’89) Clark finished with over 3,100 yards in his career, good for sixth place all-time in NU rushing history. In his last performance in 1989, he rushed for 86 yards against Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl.



#10 Roy Helu Jr.


Roy Helu Jr.
(NU Media Relations)

(2007-2010)
6-foot / 220 pounds
Danville, CA

Helu Jr. is one of the most unheralded running backs in Husker history. Even though his 3,404 career yards ranks fourth all-time, and his 307 yards is a single-game rushing record, Helu Jr. never made a first-team all-conference team in his career at Nebraska. But, he is the first player to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons since Calvin Jones did it in 1992 and 1993. It is too bad Helu Jr. didn’t play on better Nebraska teams; maybe then people would appreciate what he did a lot more. You also throw in the fact that a good handful of carriers were taken away from a guy named Rex Burkhead.



The next wave of guys in no particular order: I.M. Hipp, Derek Brown, Rex Burkhead, Jeff Kinney, and Roger Craig.

*** Big Red Report’s Josh Harvey, Shane Gilster, and Bryan Munson contributed to this report.

Discuss this topic on our premium message board: CLICK HERE. To become a subscriber to the BigRedReport web site or magazine, CLICK HERE.

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2008. He is now the Publisher of Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics.
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