RIO DE JANEIRO — The jersey was a little tight, but Ndamukong Suh wore it well.
The Detroit Lions defensive tackle proudly donned a U.S. soccer kit while doing a press junket for Nike and he seemed completely at home in the red, white and blue.
In another life, Suh might have been a soccer player.
When he was younger the beautiful game was all he knew and it’s become his family’s official sport. Ndamukong Suh’s father, Michael, is from Cameroon and played semi-professional soccer in Germany. His older sister, Odette Lennon Ngum Suh, played college soccer at Mississippi State and is currently a member of the Cameroon women’s national team. His younger sisters, who are 4 and 6 years old, are just starting to get into the game.
In fact, when Suh was younger, his father toyed with the idea of sending his son to boarding school in Europe so he could get better at soccer and perhaps make a career out of it, but Suh’s mother, Bernadette, wouldn’t let her son go.
In the eighth grade, Suh said his body forced him to make the decision to leave soccer. Up until that point, he had played every position except midfield and had excelled as a sweeper. But in eighth grade he hit a growth spurt and, while he loved soccer, his body became more suited to football.
“It was a bitter day,” Suh said.
But even when Suh played football in eighth grade and started up again as a sophomore in high school, he viewed it the same as he did soccer — a fun sport that probably wouldn’t amount to a professional career.
“I was so young when I made the switch that I never looked at sports as a long-term thing,” Suh said. “Even when I was playing football, going through high school and going through my first two years of college, I didn’t think I was going pro. I was thinking, I got a free ride to go to school, I’m going to use this to the best of my abilities and then go from there. I planned to come home, work with my dad and build his company up to be as big as possible. I never had the idea of going professional or anything like that.”
Michael Suh is a mechanical engineer and owns his own heating and cooling company in Portland. Suh also has a degree in mechanical engineering from Nebraska and once dreamed of being a general contractor, a dream he will follow when his professional football career ends.
But for now, Suh is enjoying his first trip to the World Cup since 1994 when his dad took him to see Cameroon play when the tournament was in the United States. Suh is repaying the favor this trip by bringing his father along to Sunday’s U.S.-Portugal game in Manaus and the two plan to watch Cameroon play Brazil before they head back to the United States.
While Suh says he’s a fan of the U.S., he still holds a special place for the Indomitable Lions.
“I would say my teams are USA and Cameroon; they’re about even to me,” Suh said. “I’m glad they’re not in the same bracket so I don’t have to worry about them playing against each other until obviously they get to a later stage, but I don’t think Cameroon is going to make it. So, I don’t have to worry about that. But it would be great to see them play against each other. I’d be for sure torn, but at least somebody’s going to win.”
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