Happy New Year, everybody! I hope 2011 was a good year for you, and I hope 2012 brings you lots of success and happiness. Let's get to the blog.

Ndamukong Suh, the highly controversial defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, did not make the Pro Bowl in 2011. That was because players, coaches, and fans didn't vote him in like they did last year, his rookie season. That's because they don't like who he's become on the field. A ruffion, a bully, an out-of-control freak. Since he's a former Nebraska Cornhusker, a mighty fine one, it bothers me to see how his on-field persona has escalated into such a vicious, ugly demeanor.

As a sport psychologist, I view Suh as an intriguing subject. As a collegiate player, he let his actions on the field dictate his persona. He played hard. Most times, he simply overpowered his opponent. He earned All-America and Player-of-the-Year awards his senior year. He was even invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York, an unusual invitation for a defensive lineman.

Suh's off-the-field persona as a collegiate player was also impressive. He was soft-spoken, yet very articulate. He was humble, and said his talent was a God-given gift. You cheered for the guy whenever his name was mentioned for any kind of award. You were proud when he was a high draft choice, and even happier when he was given a long-term, very lucrative contract by the Lions. The first thing he did with his multi-million-dollar signing bonus was to donate $2-million to the University of Nebraska football department for a new strength complex that bears his name.

Then pro football happened to Suh. Because of his stature coming out of college, he was a good interview for journalists and beat writers. And he took a liking to reporters because he was sending a message to the rest of the NFL: He was going to be the meanest man on the field. He was going to take no prisoners. If you're a quarterback, you better run and hide because Suh would find you and destroy you. And he didn't care what people or players thought of him, because that was going to be his style. He said only words from his mother could change his ways.

During his first season, in which he was named Defensive Rookie of the Year, he became notorious for hard, sometimes vicious hits, on quarterbacks. He was assessed numerous personal foul penalties, and was fined several times by the NFL, adding up to thousands of dollars. In the off-season, he made a special trip to talk with the NFL commissioner to discuss his playing skills and how they match up to how the NFL interprets rough play. Supposedly, he came away from that meeting with a more clear understanding of what he could, and could not do, on the playing field.

Then most of American saw the "stomp" on Thanksgiving Day against the Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Suh, angry because Smith had successfully blocked him and frustrated at how Green Bay was moving the ball, pushed Smith's helmet into the artificial surface of Ford Field, and then stomped on Smith's arm before walking away. He was quickly banished from the field, and subsequently suspended for two games. During his playing absence, he was involved in a traffic accident in home city of Portland in which his passengers allege that he was driving recklessly. Controversy seems to be following Suh wherever he goes.

Suh is still considered a nice guy off the field by the majority of sport commentators. So why is there such a difference in Suh the collegiate player and Suh the professional player? I call it the "Rothlisberger Syndrome." Ben Rothlisberger became enamored of his "Big Ben" image, acting foolishly, selfishly, and dangerously following his Super Bowl wins. When he was charged with raping a woman in an after-hours bar, he suddenly realized that he was traveling down the wrong road. He seemed to clean up his act, got married, and now you don't read about Big Ben doing stupid things anymore.

I think Ndamukong Suh started to believe in his "meanest man" image he wanted to display on the field. I believe he started to think he was a star on and off the field. I think in his mind that this "image" was now who he was. You couldn't separate the two. The picture was getting murkier by the minute. Then the news of the car accident in Portland seemed to solidify Suh as an out-of-control celebrity. He was now building a "bad guy" image in his personal life.

Suh apologized to Dietrich-Smith a few days after the incident. He apologized to his teammates, his coaches, the Lion's organization, and to Lion's fans. He did the right thing. Maybe his mother did sit him down and whup him upside the head and told him to get control of himself. Suh has said repeatedly that only his mother could change his ways. Let's hope Mom is staying all over her son to keep his head straight on his shoulders. That's what Mothers do best. And in Suh's case, that's exactly what he needed.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Brennan, a former educator and college basketball coach, has Masters degrees in Educational Administration and Sport Psychology, and a Doctorate in Performance and Health Psychology. He is the author of several books, including Six Psychological Factors for Success and The Recruiters Bible (3rd Edition). He is President of Peak Performance Consultants, and the President and CEO of the Center for Performance Enhancement Research and Education (CPERE). Steve is the developer of the Success Factors Scales, both Corporate and Athletics Editions. http://www.peakperformanceconsult.com and http://thebestcollegerecruiter.com/