Standing at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, defensive end Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald has the frame of a five-star prospect.
But with just three days to go until National Signing Day, Abadi-Fitzgerald holds just a handful of scholarship offers.
Yet one of those offers is from the Gators.
Coach Jim McElwain was in Lakeland on Tuesday to meet Abadi-Fitzgerald, and Florida’s head coach quickly offered him a scholarship in the 2017 class.
However, with 72 hours until National Signing Day, the offer alone wasn’t enough to sway the unheralded prospect. In order to see if Florida is truly a good fit, Abadi-Fitzgerald took an official visit Sunday to UF.
“It went well,” Abadi-Fitzgerald said of his visit. “I liked the school. The academic side is great, it’s very strong. I’m thinking of going into business school.”
Along with touring the facilities, Abadi-Fitzgerald said he had an opportunity to meet Florida’s coaching staff and the team.
However, the Gators aren’t the lone SEC program vying for his signature on Wednesday.
“I’m trying to go with one of three schools,” Abadi-Fitzgerald said. “Florida International, Florida and Kentucky.”
A late offer from the Gators, as meaningful as it may be, has thrown a wrench into Abadi-Fitzgerald’s plans, making a tough decision even tougher.
“I’m going to talk to my parents about that,” he said. “We’re going to talk about it. I don’t know what time (I’m announcing on Wednesday).”
Gator fans under the impression the late offer is cause for concern aren’t aware of Abadi-Fitzgerald’s journey to this point.
— Tommy Lewis (@coachtommylewis) January 29, 2017
A native of Otuan, Nigeria, Abule Abadi was living with a host family in Coral Springs when he found himself scheduled to move to another foster home.
But before Abadi could find himself living in another home, Steve and Teri Fitzgerald stepped in to adopt Abadi and fellow Nigeria native Alowei Talent.
Steve, the boys’ basketball coach at Coral Springs Christian, welcomed the two boys into their family.
While he enjoyed playing basketball, Abadi-Fitzgerald wasn’t able to string together consecutive productive seasons on football field.
“A long story short, I started in ninth grade year,” Abadi-Fitzgerald said. “Coach Donald Bennett taught me to play football, so that was my first year. But I never really got the full experience, and my sophomore year I didn’t play football. We didn’t have a team. My junior year I didn’t play football because I transferred from Coral Springs Christian to Dade Christian and there were some issues there.
“But my senior year I was good to go and I played with a great varsity team.”
With just a year of varsity football under his belt, Abadi-Fitzgerald understands his recruitment is more about his potential than the product he’s put on the field to this point.
That’s why McElwain attempted to sell Abadi-Fitzgerald on the opportunities Florida offers away from the football field.
“He said academically, I’m for sure going to be taken care of academically there,” Abadi-Fitzgerald said. “Basically I could go there and be a threat on the defensive side of the ball. Be a great pass rusher.”
However, Florida gave Abadi-Fitzgerald the same message Kentucky has been sending for the past year.
If the Gators hope to make Abadi-Fitzgerald a late addition to the No. 18 ranked class in the nation, McElwain and his coaching staff hope their late pitch was enough to eliminate the early suitors.
“It was my junior year, but then I didn’t play that whole year, I kind of disappeared,” Abadi-Fitzgerald said. “Once I started playing this season…everything started opening up.”
— Alfredo Rodriguez (@AlfredoARod) January 29, 2017