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July 28, 2014
Husker Buzz: A special friendship
CHICAGO - The friendship of Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon goes way back.
The pair met a high school all-star game in 2010, and the All-Big Ten running backs have kept in touch ever since.
That's why it was no surprise to see the two eating breakfast together on Monday morning at the Hilton Chicago before the start of Big Ten Media Days.
"We talk quite a bit," Gordon said. "(Abdullah) will text me and tell me what to look for in a team or what they do and things like that. We share a little information with each other, but we definitely text each other throughout the year."
Gordon said what's funny is he never expected Abdullah to even be a running back in college.
Coming out of high school in Alabama most of the top SEC programs recruited him as a defensive back. It was Nebraska that promised the three-star Abdullah the chance to play running back, even though they already had two Rivals100 incoming freshmen joining the program in Aaron Green and Braylon Heard.
Abdullah not only took on the challenge head on, he succeeded so much that both Heard and Green packed their bags for greener pastures.
"(Abdullah) played DB in that all-star game and I thought he was going to play DB in college," Gordon said. "Then when I saw him at running back he was making plays too. It's crazy."
Now the former high school all-star game teammates find themselves as two of the faces for the Big Ten in 2014.
Both Abdullah and Gordon could've gone to the NFL and been middle round draft picks, but chose to come back to finish their educations and win a Big Ten championship.
"He realized it just like I realized it," Abdullah said of Gordon. "He realizes that football doesn't last forever, and we both wanted to come back and complete our educations."
The last time the Huskers and Badgers met on the field was in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game were Wisconsin routed Nebraska 70-31.
The two teams will now meet in 2014 as West Division foes and compete for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game when they play in Madison on Nov. 15.
"It will be a big game," Gordon said. "I'm pretty sure people are going to bring up what happened in the Big Ten championship game and how I did this or that, but it's new players and new teams. When we play Nebraska it will definitely be a big game, hopefully it will be a night game. We'll be excited to play them."
Abdullah ready for his big speech
One of the centerpieces of Big Ten Media Days this week in Chicago will be the Kickoff Luncheon on Tuesday. Highlighting the event will be Abdullah's speech, which will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
A Big Ten Conference official told me each media relations staff in the league nominated a player from their respective school who they felt was worthy to give Tuesday's speech.
NU Media Relations Director Keith Mann nominated Abdullah, and after that the league decided he was the player they wanted to represent them at Tuesday's lunch.
"We already talked with Ameer on a conference call and everybody was impressed," the league spokesperson told me.
Abdullah said he was a little nervous when first asked to give the speech, but he now embraces this opportunity.
"At first I was a little skeptical because I'm not a big talker in front of a big crowds like, but (Mann) was like it would be a good opportunity to let the Big Ten Conference know who I am," Abdullah said. "Nebraska fans know who I am, but the Big Ten as a conference doesn't. It's a good opportunity for me to spread some wisdom."
In 2011 Michigan State and now Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins gave arguably the best speech in the history of the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon.
Abdullah said somebody suggested he watch Cousins speech to get some pointers, but he chose to go a different route. He's rehearsed his speech several times now, and he feels like he's ready to go.
"I didn't want to watch (Cousins) speech because I didn't want to psych myself out," Abdullah said. "I heard it was really good, so I was like 'I'm not watching that,' because then I'm going to feel pressure to do something extra special like make a rabbit appear."
Three and out
***Head coach Bo Pelini is really going to change his practice approach this year. Instead of a sprinters approach out of the gate, he's going to use a marathon approach to keep his team fresh for November when they play their biggest games. This only makes sense. His previous method has helped his teams win 9 and 10 games each season, but clearly something had to change going forward if they want to get over the hump.
There will no longer be 30 to 45 minute on-field walk-thrus before practice each day. There will also be some adjustments with Thursday and Friday practices. This should really help with the physical mental grind of things.
"It was like we had a practice before practice even began," Bell said.
***It was special for senior safety Corey Cooper to be back home in Chicago on Monday. Cooper said he was able to stay with his family over the weekend and then join Pelini and the other players at the Hilton on Monday morning.
***Bell told me he was a little taken back how much press it got when people thought he shaved his famous afro. Bell said he put the post on Twitter only to have some fun, and had no idea it would become a national college football story that he shaved off his afro.
"If you look at the picture you should be able to tell I didn't get rid of it," Bell said laughing.
Sean Callahan can be reached at [email protected] and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.