Meet Ndomukong Suh, Engineer

As I watched Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndomukong Suh tour the image rehabilitation landscape with appearances on CBS’ The NFL Today and NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, I hoped for him to do well but looked for him to falter, perhaps even reveal what drives the monster that seems to lurk inside. Instead, Suh unveiled to a skeptical public a well-spoken, smart, courteous gentleman with a calm poise and humor.

And an engineering degree, to boot.

Suh graduated from Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in construction management from the university’s College of Engineering. According
to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, construction managers “plan, direct, coordinate, and budget a wide variety of construction projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants, and schools and hospitals.”

In that capacity, they “schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes . . . but they usually do not do any actual construction of the structure.”

Hmm. Not doing any actual construction. No nail gun or hammer or 2 x 4. Instead, Suh the engineer carries a clipboard, a budget and building plans, doing a lot of walking and talking and harmless pointing and waving of arms.

I’m having trouble reconciling the engineer in Suh with the dangerous competitor in Suh, one who inhabits not a rock ʼem sock ʼem locker room but a long series of dusty trailers on building sites.

Would I be having an easier time if, as Lions GM Martin Mayhew indicated last week, the organization had reined in Suh before he perpetrated
the infamous Thanksgiving Day Stomp? Would he then have better resembled the construction manager who schedules, coordinates, budgets and directs but does not hammer?

Aided by his football intelligence, Suh may indeed have learned his lesson, especially in the face of Kyle Vanden Bosch telling him the team
can’t afford his outbursts to continue. But I think it’s unlikely that the narrative that defines Suh now will completely reverse itself until he replaces the helmet with a hardhat.

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