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Michelle Bishop/Corbis

With Nebraska earrings, a Nebraska brooch and a Nebraska bracelet, Byam is wearing more red than Santa Claus. She returned to her home state in 1994 after spending 20 years in Phoenix, and she doesn’t regret it.

“I love the seasons,” Byam says. “I enjoy the snow. I really love the small towns. People are just so friendly.”

For Byam, this is home. For Ndamukong Suh, arguably the most fearsome defensive player in Nebraska football history, this is a homecoming.
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Mike Fratt, general manager of Homer’s Music in Omaha

At last year’s spring game, Suh, despite being unemployed, announced that he would give $2 million to the athletic department and another $600,000 to endow an engineering scholarship. This year, after being picked second in the National ­Football League draft and winning Rookie of the Year honors, Suh is back in Nebraska two hours before kickoff, tossing T-shirts to hundreds of fans on a practice field a short walk from the stadium.

Although the Detroit Lions are paying him $68 million to play defensive tackle for five years, Suh, who grew up in Portland, Ore., and lives in Houston, says that he is more a Cornhusker than a Lion.

“I’m both — more of Cornhusker, because [I was] here for four or five years,” Suh says. “I definitely miss playing football here. I felt comfortable when I was here. Ever since I set foot in this state, I’ve felt that way. When you come here as a student athlete, they really embrace you.”

Forget the fact that Suh stands 6 foot 4, weighs more than 300 pounds and can run 40 yards in less than five seconds. He is as soft-spoken as a CPA as he answers kids’ questions, prompting some in the crowd to shout, “We can’t hear you!” He discloses that his sister is his role model and his favorite pet was a rabbit. He gets the most applause when someone asks his opinion of uniforms worn at the University of Oregon, which has been known to outfit its team in neon-yellow socks.

“That’s what they have to do to have a tradition,” Suh proclaims. “We have a classic one.”