PORTLAND – Believe it or not, football wasn’t always the first love for Portland Grant four-star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
The 6-foot-3 ½, 278-pound Suh loved basketball while growing up, and still does, but a move to the gridiron in his sophomore season has led him to a place that basketball could not – the top of the state and national rankings as one of the nation’s best defensive tackles.
“You should see him go up and dunk the basketball,” Grant coach Gary Thorson said. “It’s phenomenal. It’s hard to believe that a guy that big, almost 300 pounds, can go up there and dunk the basketball like that, but he can. He’s a raw athlete first, and then he’s also one heck of a football player.”
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But the transition from basketball star to football star took some time and hard work. Suh, who is ranked by Rivals.com as the nation’s No. 14 defensive tackle, had to spend plenty of time perfecting his crack on the practice field.
"He was eager to learn,” Thorson said. “We knew right away that he had the physical part, the tools to be something special, but he needed to learn how to become a football player. He came out as a sophomore and just was learning the game, but his junior season he learned to keep his pad level lower and he spent a lot of time lifting in the weight room and you could really see the potential in him.
“Then it was all of a sudden, it clicked.”
It clicked because Suh continued to work hard in the off-season, working out at camps, learning better technique and doing everything he can do to absorb football. And he sucked up all of the knowledge of the game and perfected his technique the transformation was complete.
Ndamukong Suh had become one of the nation’s top football prospects in the class of 2005.
“He’s rare,” Thorson said. “I’ve had a few Division I guys go to places like Duke and Oregon State, but I’ve never had anything like this. He plays so hard on every single play, and he won’t ask to come out. He’s a one-of-a-kind player.”
He’s a one of a kind player that has offers from Arizona, Cal, Kentucky, Miami, Mississippi State, Nebraska and Oregon State. He’s already taken official visits to Mississippi State and Nebraska and Oregon State is up next for this upcoming weekend. More than one Pac 10 team said Suh is good enough to start for them as a true freshman if he were to pick his school.
His coach said he is proud of the way that Suh has handled all of the attention that has been thrown his way by college coaches and reporters.
“He has a good head on his shoulders,” Thorson said. “He’s kind of quiet about what he’s really thinking about the recruiting. I know he’s going to take his visits and enjoy the process, and whichever team gets him will be lucky.”
Lucky because that team will land one of the nation’s top athletes, even though he’s 6-3 and 270-plus pounds, and lucky because Suh knows he’s still has some room to go to be ready for that next level.
“I think my biggest strength is my speed,” he said. “I have an advantage over most players because of my footwork and speed, but I know that I have to keep working hard to get better. I’ve come a long way since I was just a good basketball player. I know want to be the best football player, too.”