It makes sense that Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah’s favorite running back would be someone similar to himself; you just might expect it to be a guy who retired seven years ago.
“Right now I don’t feel like I can pattern my game after anyone — everyone’s really good at that level,” the running back said with a chuckle at the NFL Combine Thursday. “But a guy I really look up to is Warrick Dunn. There’s a running back who I feel like could take it the distance, he could catch the ball out of the backfield, was powerful between the tackles and off-the-field he was a first-team guy.”
Abdullah, who is 5 feet 8 and 198 pounds, is similar in stature to Dunn, who was listed at 5 feet 9 and 187 pounds during his last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The knock on Dunn was always his size, but that didn’t keep him from working his way into becoming one of 29 players in history to rush for more than 10,000 career yards across 12 seasons.
Abdullah just enjoyed a monster senior season in which he rushed 264 times for 1,611 yards and 19 touchdowns and flashed upper-echelon speed and elusiveness, enough to be considered second-or-third round pick in this year’s draft, despite his size. His ball security (24 career fumbles) and pass blocking are concerns, though he says he’s diligently working on improving both.
“I got a lot better at the Senior Bowl,” Abdullah said. “I had some games where I’m not so good. I had some games where I’m really good. Just becoming more consistent on a day-to-day basis.”
Abdullah, however, tried to prove to teams how serious he is at working on his craft at the Senior Bowl. An example of his professionalism came in individual drills, when he always finished every run with a sprint 30 yards downfield, a habit he shares with Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.
“You can’t train differently than how you’re gonna play on Saturdays and Sundays,” Abdullah said. “That’s what the running back position is about; when you finish a drill, sprint 30 yards. Because when you get in a game and you have to sprint 30 yards, it won’t be the first time you did it. It will be second nature, you won’t be winded. You can take it the distance, no problem.
“That’s what I learned from Ahman Green, a lot of guys who played at Nebraska before me. I kind of stole that from them.”