What Ifs

Nebraska's Tre Bryant (18) runs the ball during the game against Arkansas State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Nebraska football has featured many great players and NFL starters in its storied history, like Ndamukong Suh, Lavonte David and Ahman Green. They were able to showcase their ability to play at the next level during their time at Nebraska. However, some players did not have that fortune and faced injuries that derailed their season or career, like Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury on Saturday. 

Tre Bryant (2016-17)

One of these players was running back Tre Bryant, who retired from football last year because of recurring knee and leg injuries. Bryant burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2016, playing in every regular season game, finishing with 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Bryant won the Nebraska Newcomer of the Year award and played well in the first two games of the 2017 regular season against Arkansas State and Oregon, rushing for 299 yards before getting hurt in the Oregon game. Bryant never recovered from that knee injury and his story at Nebraska is left untold.    

Ameer Abdullah (2011-14)

Ameer Abdullah was another great running back for the Huskers, but his senior season was marred by a knee injury nine games into his senior season in 2014. Abdullah was coming off two years of consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He was in the Heisman Trophy discussion, but his knee injury cost him time and he was noticeably less explosive when he came back. 

Abdullah has also struggled with injuries during his time in the NFL, missing all but two games in the 2016 season with the Detroit Lions due to a foot injury. 

Trev Alberts (1990-94)

Linebacker Trev Alberts was one of the best linebackers to play for the Huskers. He accomplished great feats during his time at Nebraska like winning the Butkus award for the nation’s best linebacker, Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year and recording three sacks after dislocating his elbow in the Orange Bowl against Florida State to earn MVP honors. 

Alberts was drafted fifth overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 1994, but injuries derailed what could have been a great NFL career. He only started seven games in his three-year career and only played in 29 games. He missed 20 games due to a dislocated right elbow, a concussion, a partially dislocated left shoulder and a hamstring injury. Alberts retired in 1997. 

Taylor Martinez (2010-13)

Quarterback Taylor Martinez emerged as the starting quarterback for Nebraska in 2010, in part due to his ability to make plays out of nothing as a dual-threat quarterback. He recorded 22 total touchdowns in 2010 and led the Huskers to a 10-4 record. Martinez was able to continue to improve statistically during his junior year in 2012, where he had nearly 800 more passing yards, 10 more touchdowns and a 6% higher completion rate than the year before. Experts viewed him as a long-shot Heisman Trophy candidate entering the 2013 season. 

His senior year was destroyed by injury, as he suffered a plantar plate tear in his left foot. Martinez played in only four games his senior season, as the injury hampered him even when he was on the field. His last game was a loss at Minnesota and what could have been an impressive final season was ruined by injuries. The Huskers finished the 2013 season 9-4, but they could have reached greater heights if their star quarterback did not get hurt.  

Injuries are part of football and a price to pay in a brutal game. Great football players like Martinez, Alberts and Bryant had potential to have great NFL careers, but their injuries are prime examples of this. You can be the best at your position and be on top of the football world, but all of it could be wiped away by one devastating injury.