Looking over the defensive linemen over the years, Nebraska has had a bunch of good ones over the years, and several that are downright special. In the nomination thread, I asked whether Husker fans needed more time to allow us to put last season into perspective, and the vote was overwhelmingly against. I can see that point, as going into this debate, I figured this would be a slam dunk no-brainer topic. Then I started to put this list of candidates together, and frankly, it's not so cut and dried. If you take a step back, you really have to think about this one, as there are several really great candidates here.
In the nomination thread, we had several other players nominated. Great players, I might add, who deserve some mention. Christian Peter, Jason Peter, John Parella, Jared Tomich, Steve Warren, Danny Noonan, and Broderick Thomas all deserve to be mentioned in this thread. But we've got to cut the list somewhere...
Where do we start with Ndamukong Suh: Lombardi, Outland, and Bednarik awards. Consensus all-American. 57 career tackles for loss (2nd all-time at Nebraska), 15 career pass breakups (all time leader for defensive linemen at Nebraska), 6 career blocked kicks (2nd only to Barron Miles). Simply put...the best player in college football in 2009. But that was one season. Remember his sophomore season? Bo Pelini took one look at the tape of the Southern Cal game in 2007 and told Suh that he stunk.
A two time all-American, Grant Wistrom won the 1997 Lombardi Award (the Outland went to teammate Aaron Graham on offense). He still holds the Nebraska record for tackles for loss at 58.5 in his career. He played a key role on three national championships, and started for both the 1995 and 1997 champions, going 49-2 in his Husker career. He also was a two-time academic all-American and won the NCAA's "Top VIII" award for outstanding achievements in athletics, academics, and in leadership. Wistrom was drafted with the sixth pick in the 1998 NFL draft, and played nine seasons in the NFL, including three Super Bowls.
Rich Glover was a two time consensus all-American in 1971 and 1972, and won both the 1972 Outland and Lombardi Awards. He had a huge role in the classic "Game of the Century", with 22 tackles of the Oklahoma Sooners that day. Like Big Mister Suh, Glover got serious Heisman consideration, finishing third in the 1972 vote. Glover went on to play three seasons in the NFL after being drafted in the third round in the 1973 draft.
Larry Jacobsen was an all-American in his senior season when he won the 1971 Outland Trophy, the first winner of a major football award at Nebraska. In his senior season, he had 73 tackles, including 12 tackles for a loss. He also was an academic all-American, and was a first round draft pick of the New York Giants. He played four seasons in the NFL before retiring after the 1975 season.
Neil Smith didn't win any national awards, but certainly caught the eye of pro scouts. After an all-American senior season, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Smith with the second pick in the 1988 NFL draft. Smith went on to play eight seasons in Kansas City, three more in Denver, and a final season in San Diego. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and won two Super Bowls with the Broncos.
So there are your candidates. Want to know how I'll vote? While Ndamukong Suh had the best season in 2009, I also have to vote based on his entire career, and because of that, I'm going to vote for Grant Wistrom. His role in three national championships counts for more than one spectacular season.