He stands 6'4" and over 300 pounds and he's wearing jeans and a hoodie. His first name isn't easy to pronounce so most everyone calls him by his three-letter last name. He may be the best young defensive tackle in the game. His final college season was near legendary and that momentum didn't stop in the NFL.
He's in a hurry this morning as he's shuffled from ESPN's Mike & Mike to First Take to ESPN Radio. (ESPN loves him, if you can't tell.) Fans are screaming his name as he walks past on a layer of ice and frigid weather in Fort Worth, Texas for 2011 Super Bowl week.
He's a defensive tackle and No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. You might know him as Ndamukong Suh.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know the Detroit Lions defensive tackle is widely expected to be named the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year on Friday night. He speaks in a surprisingly calm, soft voice when I ask him if he knows that he's a shoo-in for the award.
I really don't know [if I'll win]. It's exciting. It's a pleasure to be up for that, something so prestigious. Something that's the first and last opportunity because you only have one rookie season. Hopefuly I can bring it home but there are a lot of other great players up for it that are well deserved. It'll be interesting to see who wins it.
He has to know he's a bigger lock than Rams QB Sam Bradford is for offensive rookie of the year but he won't say it. There's no bravado -- on or off the record -- as I pepper him with questions. He wears jeans and a hoodie as he sits on the couch leaning forward to speak with me. He's part of Subway's team now and I joke that they'll need a new four-foot long sandwich and call it "Suh's arms". (And then I got really scared he wouldn't like my joke. Luckily, he did.) Suh's at Super Bowl week promoting Subway's FebruANY month where regular foot-long subs are five bucks. The early over/under on subs to fill Suh up is 24.
The Lions haven't won a playoff game in two decades but Suh's part of a young crop of players that has fans in Detroit, and across the NFL, taking notice. Four consecutive victories to end the season has him dreaming -- realistically, he says -- of what the possibilities are for next year.
It's just a matter of putting it together. I think we have the nucleus to get to the playoffs last season but obviously we didn't win enough games early enough. I think we did pretty well towards the end. We won I think our last quarter of our season so it's just a matter of carrying that into 2011.
He talks about his teammates quite a bit saying an honor like the AP Rookie of the Year would be a great feeling because he can bring it home to his teammates. He mentions a couple of times the "nucleus" of good players they have and the faith that he has in the front office to add the necessary pieces. A story last week suggested he was heading to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii to recruit future free agents to come to Detroit but he says he may been misquoted on that.
I said I would go out there and answer any questions anyone had for me. That was really my focus was to really enjoy it with my family, my sister and be able to hang out with the other guys. Just take a relaxing period of time after getting done with the season. That's what I did. I got to talk to the other palyers and meet with their families so that was interesting being able to do that and interact with other guys that are on the other side of the ball or the conference.
One of those players was Julius Peppers, who was also a second overall pick nine years ago. Four days after the Pro Bowl, that's the player he says stood out to him during his excursion to Hawaii with his family.
Being able to meet him in person, I've never really talked to him the times I played against him. He's definitely a low key guy, taking care of business. Everyone knows he's a great player and he's a great person to follow.
What I've found fascinating about the Lions is seeing this change in reputation which coincides with the arrival of Suh. They lost five of their first six games in 2010 but four of those losses were within one score. The Lions' arrow is pointing up, if you ask me, and Suh says there's "no question" about that.
I think that the biggest thing was changing the atmosphere and changing that perspective in the locker room. I think, whole-heartedly, everybody has bought into coach Schwartz and what kind of offense and defense he wants. That mentality around the organization is changing. 'Oh those losing Lions, they'll never make the playoffs and may have a 8-8 season at best.' I think we really see us 14-2 -- you never know what we can do. Any given Sunday I think we can beat any team we face as long as we put in the work.
He's one of the most popular players at 2011 Super Bowl as you've probably noticed if you turned on ESPN or NFL Network this week. Everyone seems to want a piece of him and it doesn't seem to faze him.
As he walks away, fans start screaming "SUH!!!" That's a little easier than pronouncing his first name.