By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ndamukong Suh knows he will be a winner in Thursday's NFL Draft, and the massive University of Nebraska defensive tackle has made sure he will make winners of a long list of future students at his alma mater.
The 6-foot-4, 307-pound (140 kg) Suh, an All-American widely tipped to be one of the first players selected in the draft, has pledged a $2.6 million donation to the college after he signs with his NFL team.
"I know that the reason why I am here is not of my own doing," the quiet son of a Cameroonian father and Jamaican mother told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the draft.
"I've had great mentors and a great family behind me, and coaches to help me get to where I am right now.
"I don't necessarily feel the obligation but I feel the want-to, to give back to such a great university and program that gave me so much," said Suh, who left soccer for football and became a high school talent in Portland, Oregon.
Suh, whose combination of strength and speed has touts calling him a can't-miss NFL prospect, earmarked $2 million to fund renovation of the university's weight and conditioning facility and set up a scholarship endowment of $600,000 to pay for an out-of-state student such as he was.
"I graduated from a great engineering program, it's very unique in this country, cutting edge ... working with NASA, working with doctors building robots to do surgery.
"So graduating from the engineering program at the University of Nebraska is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I wanted to give other kids the opportunity to do that."
The interest from Suh's $600,000 gift will cover the four-year costs for an out-of-state student, who pays higher fees than those from Nebraska. Students from Grant High School in Portland will get first consideration for the scholarship.
Relaxing in a grey tee-shirt and black polyester shorts after participating in a youth fitness activity in New York's Central Park, Suh reflected on his path to the NFL.
"I didn't play football when I was young. I was a soccer kid, and began playing when I was three," said Suh, whose father played semi-professional soccer in Germany.
"I gave it up in the eighth grade. I got a lot of unfair calls, red cards and such. I'm a big physical guy. I've always been that way."
"I decided to move on to a sport I actually fell in love with because I could be really physical and impose my will on another person and not get in trouble for it."
Suh credits his family for keeping him on an even keel.
His sister has continued in soccer and plays for the women's national team in Cameroon.
"She missed the majority of my season," he said about his last year at Nebraska. "I was a little upset with her, but was kind of happy. She was back in Cameroon kind of living her dream."
Suh expects to join his father's mechanical engineering business when his NFL playing days are over.
"Without a doubt. I did not get an engineering degree not to use it," he said.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Ian Ransom)