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Former Pittsburgh All-America defensive end Hugh Green watched Saturday's Big 12 championship game with interest.
|Hugh Green was the favorite for the 1980 Heisman.|
Nearly three decades ago, Green was considered a Heisman Trophy favorite in 1980, along with South Carolina running back George Rogers.
Green, who now lives in his hometown of Natchez, Miss., wanted to see whether Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was as good as his reputation.
After watching Suh manhandle No. 3 Texas' offensive line in the Cornhuskers' 13-12 loss, Green said Suh was even better than he believed. Green even compared Suh to former Miami All-American Jerome Brown and former Tennessee star Reggie White, one of the greatest pass-rushers in NFL history.
"I think he's a very talented interior lineman," Green said. "With the four sacks, I think he played like Jerome Brown and Reggie White. He dominated the game from a defensive line position."
So will Suh win the Heisman Trophy in New York on Saturday night? He's one of five Heisman finalists, along with running backs Mark Ingram of Alabama and Toby Gerhart of Stanford and quarterbacks Colt McCoy of Texas and Tim Tebow of Florida.
"If I didn't win it, with what I accomplished in four years, I don't think he'll win it, either," Green said.
Suh, who was a one-man wrecking crew for Nebraska's defense this season, has perhaps the best chance at winning the Heisman Trophy of any defensive player since Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997.
|In 1997, Charles Woodson became the first -- and last -- defensive player to win.|
Suh, a senior from Portland, Ore., finished the season with 82 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. What's so impressive about his performance, according to Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, is that the Cornhuskers' defense isn't designed for Suh to pile up tackles and sacks.
"He's supposed to take on blocks and free up linebackers," Pelini said. "But no one can block him."
After Suh ravaged Texas' offensive line at Dallas Cowboys Stadium this past weekend, finishing with a career-high 12 tackles, 4½ sacks and a school-record seven tackles for loss, Brown said his offense simply couldn't block him.
"We thought [Gerald] McCoy at Oklahoma was as good as we've seen in years," Brown said. "And Ndamukong did the same thing tonight. He was all over the place, and we just couldn't handle him. I tried to find him after the game to wish him luck in the NFL because I don't want to see him again."
Suh already has won the Rotary Lombardi Award as college football's best lineman and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the top defensive player. He's also a finalist for the Walter Camp Award, Lott Trophy, Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy.
Suh should win the Heisman Trophy, too. There wasn't a more dominant player at any position in the country this season.
But Suh probably won't win the Heisman Trophy because college football's most coveted individual honor has historically been reserved for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
Green was probably college football's best player in 1980. He arrived at Pitt in 1976, a year after Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett led the Panthers to a national championship. Green started on the defensive line for four seasons and was a three-time All-American.
|Ndamukong Suh looks to be the first purely defensive player to win.|
In his senior season in 1976, Green had 123 tackles, 17 sacks, seven forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 17 quarterback hurries. He was the most feared player at any position on any team in America.
But Green lost the Heisman Trophy to Rogers, who led the country in rushing with 1,781 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Rogers had 216 first-place votes to Green's 179 and outgained him in total points, 1,128 to 861. Green's first-place votes and points total were the highest ever by a lineman.
"I would like to see a pure defensive player win it," Green said. "But history has shown the public doesn't want that. They want to see points and yards and receptions. Even when Woodson won it, he returned punts and played wide receiver every once in a while."
Green said that if he had a vote -- which he doesn't, as a Heisman Trophy runner-up -- he wouldn't vote for Suh. Green said he'd vote for Ingram, who led the No. 1 Crimson Tide to the Jan. 7 Citi BCS National Championship Game.
"You have to take your team to the championship," Green said. "That's still the most important thing."
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.