Analyzing The Detroit Lions’ Acquisitions From the University Of Nebraska-Lincoln
This is the 11th article in a 12-part series that will examine which colleges have been the best at producing Detroit Lions in the 21st century. Today will be a look at Lions players from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Lydon Murtha played at Nebraska for four seasons. He played both the left and right tackle positions in his time with the Cornhuskers but did not really have a notable career. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Lydon Murtha never played a snap for the Lions. He didn’t make the team in his rookie year and ended up with the Miami Dolphins. He spent two years there, and played in ten games. In 2010, he made four starts. Since then, he has not been on an NFL roster.
Ameer Abdullah had a four-year career at Nebraska, and he was very dominant during that time. He only rushed for 150 yards in his freshman year but ran for over 1,000 yards in each of the next two seasons including two 1,600 yard seasons in his junior and senior years. He was also a touchdown machine, scoring 46 times in his four-year career. This outstanding production led to Detroit drafting him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Abdullah was the leading rusher for the Lions as a rookie, playing in all 16 games and recording 597 rushing yards and two touchdowns at 4.2 yards per carry. He also caught 25 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.
In 2016, Abdullah got off to a really hot start in the first two games but suffered a season ending injury early in week two. In just over five quarters, Abdullah ran the ball 18 times for 101 yards and caught five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Abdullah has a ton of potential and will start the season as the Lions’ primary running back, but he will have to prove that he has the durability for that role.
Cory Schlesinger was a fullback who was handed the ball quite often at Nebraska. He played there for three seasons and totaled 706 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. In his junior year, he played a big role in the running game, running for 456 yards and four touchdowns at 7.2 yards per carry, and he was also a dominant lead blocker.
In the 1995 Orange Bowl, Cory Schlesinger played a key role in the Cornhuskers’ 24-17 win over Miami. He scored two touchdowns, including the game winning touchdown with 2:46 left to play.
Schlesinger was drafted in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions. He had a very long and productive career for the Lions, playing from 1995 until 2006. He was productive catching and running the ball, and finished his career with 1918 total yards and 14 touchdowns.
However, where Schlesinger really earned his reputation was as a brutal lead blocker. He developed a habit of blocking people so hard that he would break his own facemask. He once broke 20 facemasks over the course of a single season.
Schlesinger is not by any means a Hall of Famer, but he had a very good career with the Lions and was extremely reliable for more than a decade.
Kyle Vanden Bosch
Kyle Vanden Bosch was a very versatile player at Nebraska. He started 23 games over three seasons at Nebraska. He finished his collegiate career with 142 tackles, 13 sacks, 34 tackles for loss, 46 quarterback pressures and three blocked kicks. He was named to the first team All-Big 12 team in 2000. His college production prompted the Arizona Cardinals to draft him in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft.
Vanden Bosch spent the first three seasons of his professional career in Arizona, where he initially looked like a draft bust. In that time, he only recorded four sacks. He was released before his fourth season and signed with the Tennessee Titans.
He revived his career in Tennessee, recording 12.5 sacks in his first year as a Titan. He had another 12 sack season two years later in 2007 and had 38.5 sacks in his five years as a Titan.
Vanden Bosch came to the Lions in 2010, where he immediately became a team leader. He spent three seasons as a Lion, with his best season in 2011 when he recorded eight sacks and four forced fumbles. In his three years in Detroit, he recorded 15.5 sacks. Vanden Bosch retired after the 2012 season.
Dominic Raiola had a very successful three-year career at Nebraska. He became the first freshman lineman to start for the team in almost a decade. He started all of his sophomore and junior seasons at center, and won the Rimington Trophy (the award given to the best center) and was named a first team all-American after his junior year. Raiola was drafted in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
Dominic Raiola was never a dominant lineman, but he was one of the most reliable Lions of all time. He played with the team from 2001 until 2014 and started 219 games in that time. He only missed five games in his entire career.
Although Raiola was not a Hall of Fame level player, his reliability and his willingness to stick with the team through the worst decade in Lions history deserve recognition.
Ndamukong Suh also had a four-year college career, but he spent the first two as a rotational defensive lineman. In his junior season, he had a massive breakout year, recording 76 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns.
He topped this effort in his senior year when he made 85 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks and one interception. He finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting his senior year, mostly thanks to a huge Big 12 Conference Championship where he had 4.5 sacks in a losing effort.
Suh was drafted with the second overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. As a rookie, Suh had his strongest statistical NFL season so far, making 65 tackles, 10 sacks, 3 passes defended, an interception and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
Suh’s best overall season came in 2014 when he had 54 tackles and 8.5 sacks, leading the Lions to have the second-ranked defense in the entire NFL and the first defense against the run by a wide margin.
After the 2014 season, Suh signed a six year $114,375,000 contract with the Miami Dolphins. In his two seasons in Miami, he has recorded 11 sacks, 11 passes defended and 133 tackles. He has continued to be one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
Nebraska has produced four excellent Detroit Lions (Suh, Vanden Bosch, Raiola, Schlesinger), one Lion with a ton of potential and a chance to prove himself this upcoming season (Abdullah) and one seventh round draft pick who never made the team (Murtha). Overall, Nebraska has been tremendous at producing Detroit Lions, and I can’t imagine any school coming closer to an A grade than this one.