Sunday, November 19, 2017
Colleges

Sure, it's father vs. son for USF-Illinois but it's also just business

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — On a sultry Monday morning at the University of Tampa's Pepin-Rood Stadium, Donnie Abraham had no choice but to switch from distracted rookie to dialed-in one, and pronto.

His first day of NFL employment — July 22, 1996 — was upon him. A Buccaneers third-round pick out of East Tennessee State, Abraham was embarking on the first practice of Tony Dungy's first training camp as Tampa Bay's coach. In this bygone NFL generation, first impressions took precedence even over firstborns.

Abraham, a cornerback, had to go on the field and deliver. A day later in Atlanta, his wife Tunisia delivered as well.

Donnie didn't lay eyes on Devin Isaiah Abraham until a few days later.

"Back then, you couldn't leave (camp)," Abraham said. "It's not like it is nowadays, if somebody has a baby they can just up and leave. So I missed his birth because I was trying to provide for my family."

Devin reciprocated, missing his dad's first few games until the weather cooled and Tunisia felt comfortable bringing her infant to Houlihan's Stadium.

He has remain engaged in the game since.

"(Devin) literally lived and breathed football his whole life," Tunisia said.

The Abraham generations converge — more like collide — Friday night at Raymond James Stadium. Donnie, whose coaching career has taken him from Pinellas County to the Power Five, is safeties coach at Illinois. Devin, a safety with two interceptions already this season, will make his 28th career start for USF.

Such an encounter is nothing new. In 2013, when Donnie was head coach at Clearwater High and Devin was putting together an all-state senior season (six interceptions, eight blocked kicks) at East Lake, they faced each other (Devin won).

And rest assured, Tunisia is way past being torn over her allegiances.

"I am USF," Tunisia, a former East Tennessee State sprinter, said with a laugh. "Daddy's already had his time, so mommy's already about the baby now."

So dispense with any Bowden Bowl analogies. At its core, this is merely another night at the office for two football veterans — a dad and son — seemingly born for the game.

"You just have to go out there and execute and win the ball game," Devin said. "Then you can brag it in his face."

Like his younger two siblings (18-year-old Alivia and 16-year-old Micah), Devin was encouraged by his parents to find his own favorite sport, or sports. Devin didn't even begin playing football until fifth or sixth grade, and had gravitated to baseball by middle school.

But he broke his leg sliding into second base, requiring a cast that went up past his knee.

"That was the end of that," Devin recalled. "I said I was done with baseball."

Perhaps it was destiny. Long before he became a football player, Devin seemed a football savant.

"Ever since he was little, he was one of the kids that didn't want to go into daycare. He wanted to be out at the game, he wanted to be sitting in the stands," said Donnie, whose nine-year NFL career included a Pro Bowl season for the Bucs in 2000.

"You know how most kids run around at a game, playing? You had to get him popcorn, and he'd sit there and watch the game at a young age. And I'm talking about an age where you'd be like, 'Well, how does he understand what's going on?' "

From there, Donnie struck the delicate balance of instilling his knowledge of the game without imposing it on Devin. He coached Devin only two of his four years in high school (at Gibbs in 2010 and East Lake in 2012), but regularly attended his son's USF games until this season.

Afterward, he'd ask questions without interrogating.

"(Devin) probably would never want to be coached by me, but Donnie's pretty easy," Tunisia said.

"I have pictures along the way of when Devin comes off the field at a USF game, and him and Donnie are talking, because Donnie will have a question about, 'What was this assignment? What were you thinking and what were you doing that you missed this?' or something like that. But he never fusses at him."

That type of nurturing has produced one of the sharpest football minds on the Bulls defense. Devin has two interceptions in as many games, and his unit ranks 20th nationally in pass efficiency defense (91.38).

"I think he's one of the more heady players I've had a chance to be involved with as a coach," Bulls first-year defensive coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said.

"Everybody always says, 'His father was a great NFL player, so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.' But I've also been around some players whose fathers were NFL players, and that apple was far away from the tree. So that's a testament to him."

Friday, the Abrahams will gather on the Raymond James Stadium field for a quick family photo, then it's back to business. Donnie will go to work, helping oversee a defense sure to run variants of the Tampa-Two scheme he mastered as a Buccaneer. Tunisia? She'll be with her baby.

Some things haven't changed in 21 years.

"We've been in this situation before," Donnie said.

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

Comments
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI — After Miami clinched the first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division crown in program history, upset the then-No. 3 team in the country, claimed one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and after many of the nat...
Published: 11/18/17
Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher longed for his team to play in this type of game throughout its disappointing season.After Hurricane Irma caused a three-week layoff between FSU’s first two games, forcing it to play 11 in a row to finis...
Published: 11/18/17
A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

GAINESVILLE — Chauncey Gardner wasn’t fooled. He saw UAB snap the ball. He saw the quarterback throw a screen. He saw the receiver fire a second pass downfield. Then a crowd of 84,649 saw the sophomore safety high-point the trick-play pass to earn hi...
Published: 11/18/17
Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

Florida back on track with non-conference blowout of UAB

GAINESVILLE — Florida’s next head coach — whether it’s odds-on favorite Chip Kelly or someone else — should be encouraged by Saturday’s 36-7 win over UAB.Not because the Gators (4-6) snapped a five-game losing streak by beating up on a 7-4 Blazers te...
Published: 11/18/17
Matt Baker’s takeaways from Florida-UAB

Matt Baker’s takeaways from Florida-UAB

1. A milestone Florida probably doesn’t want to celebrate: Johnny Townsend became the school’s all-time leading punter with his 232rd career punt. But Townsend has legitimately been one of the team’s MVPs.2. It took far too long, but UF’s tight ends ...
Published: 11/18/17
Basketball: Gators romp; key player hurt for Hurricanes

Basketball: Gators romp; key player hurt for Hurricanes

GAINESVILLE — Behind a balanced effort and six double-figure scorers, No. 8 Florida dominated North Florida 108-68 Thursday. Junior KeVaughn Allen led the Gators with 18 points. The balanced scoring helped Florida (2-0) dismantle the Ospreys (0-4) fr...
Published: 11/16/17
College football week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

College football week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions

The Times’ college football coverage team makes its picks for week 12 games:gametimeMartin Fennelly, @mjfennellyMatt Baker, @MBakerTBTimesTraci Johnson, @TBHomeTeamMike Sherman, @mikeshermanTom Jones, @tomwjonesJoey Knight, @TBTimes_BullsAgainst the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Chip Kelly be the Gators’ next head coach?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Chip Kelly be the Gators’ next head coach?

The Florida Gators are vetting Chip Kelly to potentially be their next head coach, but is he their first choice? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss what the future holds for the Gators and whether the coach will be Chip Kelly,...
Published: 11/15/17
College Football Playoff: Miami up to No. 3 in rankings, two-loss teams lurk

College Football Playoff: Miami up to No. 3 in rankings, two-loss teams lurk

Tuesday’s latest round of the College Football Playoff committee’s weekly rankings shows a clear path to a (relatively) controversy-free final four.Win out, and No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Wisconsin are in. So, too, is the winner of No. 2...
Published: 11/14/17
Is Miami officially back? We let the turnover chains decide

Is Miami officially back? We let the turnover chains decide

MIAMI — A question that has been bubbling up all season crescendoed over the weekend after Miami’s 33-point thrashing of Notre Dame. Is the U back?"We are back," former Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted. "I don’t think anybody can say we’re not," receiver Braxto...
Published: 11/13/17