Atlanta Falcons vs Detroit Lions: He is NFL’s dirtiest player... but defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh is also the sport’s most charitable

Wembley welcomes Detroit’s enigmatic defensive lineman

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The Independent Online

The dirtiest and most disliked player in the NFL, according to recent surveys, will be at Wembley this afternoon in the colours of the Detroit Lions as they take on the Atlanta Falcons in the second of this season’s three London regular-season games.

So, too, will a man once named the most charitable athlete in the United States according to The Giving Back Fund.

They also happen to be the same person – Ndamukong Suh, the Lions’ defensive lineman.

The softly spoken graduate in construction management has given sizeable donations to schools in Cameroon and Jamaica, where his father and mother respectively were born, and supported education and health initiatives in inner-city Detroit.

But he has also paid generous amounts to the NFL in the form of fines totalling $342,794 (£213,000) for a series of on-field infractions ranging from a throat-cutting gesture to stamping on an opponent and kicking another in the crotch.

He admits that he “compartmentalises” his actions on and off the field. An example is his friendship with the Atlanta running back Steven Jackson, whom he faces today. “I’m looking forward to tackling him,” Suh said.

 “He’s a close friend of mine, but not when we are on that football field. He’s not my enemy but he’s somebody I definitely don’t want to have any success”

Polls of rival players conducted by Sporting News magazine in 2012 and 2013 named Suh the league’s dirtiest, while it was a fans’ survey conducted by the Nielsen polling organisation that labelled him the most disliked player. He dismisses both as “media scurry”.

“You just got to take those things with a grain of salt and keep things moving,” he said, and he has lived up to that, cleaning up his disciplinary act this season. “The real me is quiet, worries about himself and his family. On the field, people are in competitive states and go about their particular ways to win.”

And it helps if opponents are  intimidated by his reputation. “It’s good to be feared and, more so,  respected. When I am double- or triple-teamed, I know I am opening up opportunities for the guys.”

After a stellar college career,  Oregon-born Suh was the second overall pick in the 2010 college draft, selected by a Detroit team that was still only 12 months removed from a season in which they lost every game. Such has been his impact that he can expect to earn a record contract for a defensive player when his present deal runs out at the end of this season.

For now, though, he is concentrating on maintaining the Lions’ league-best defensive record and helping them towards the play-offs and perhaps a first Super Bowl appearance.