Derik Abbott is still adjusting to a new routine now that his high school football career is over.
He gets home from school at 2:30 in the afternoon — something he said he hasn’t done in years — and hangs out with friends and family.
Having so much free time feels strange to Abbott.
Sure, Orlando Freedom High’s record-setting quarterback also makes sure he stays sharp by watching old game film and throwing the football regularly, but there’s a void he cannot fill.
Abbott misses the team atmosphere that comes with football and he’s hopeful he can play again at the collegiate level. With National Signing Day on Wednesday, Abbott has plenty of interest from various schools but no tangible offers, giving him an uneasy feeling about his future.
“The recruiting process, I didn’t think it would still be a process at this point last year,” Abbott said. “But there’s nothing I can do about, you can only control certain things.”
Abbott won’t have a signing day ceremony.
Instead, he will spend the next week, and perhaps longer, working the phones and contacting college coaches in the hopes of earning an official offer.
With 5,516 career passing yards and 41 total touchdowns, solid technique, good grades (3.45 GPA) and no character issues, Abbott’s lack of attention is somewhat of a mystery.
At least at first glance.
Despite the gaudy numbers and strong mechanics, colleges have overlooked Abbott because of his height. At 5-foot-11, 175-pounds, programs are reluctant to offer a quarterback who stands below the 6-foot threshold, even if it’s only by one inch.
One inch is keeping Abbott — ranked No. 34 on the Sentinel’s 2012 Central Florida Super60 — from having a school to commit to on National Signing Day.
“There could be various reasons, but that’s one of the main reason’s I’ve been told,” Abbott said.
One inch is the difference between no offers and a handful of DI-AA and DII scholarships. A couple of inches are the difference between no offers and BCS schools pounding down the door to get to Abbott.
“That’s what every school has told me, ‘If you were two inches, three inches taller, you’d go to any school in the country,’” Abbott said. “But those were kind of the cards I was dealt and there’s nothing you can do about it. I can control what I can do on the field and off the field academically.”
Just one measly inch taller and Abbott would have multiple stars lined up next to his name on all the recruiting service websites.
For Freedom head coach Andy Johnson, it’s been painful watching colleges pass on his prized pupil.
“It’s definitely the most frustrating thing that I’ve been through as a coach and it’s the same for Derik,” Johnson said. ““If I had a nickel for every one of these college coaches that said ‘well, if Derik was 6-1, I would have offered him.’”
Abbott and Johnson do not want to come off as whiners. They aren’t throwing a pity party as much as they’re trying to break through a mental barrier that coaches have about height and quarterbacks.
“It’s definitely a major flaw in the recruiting system how they can overlook a kid for an arbitrary reason,” Johnson said. “That’s an arbitrary reason if you think about it. You’re talking one inch. But for whatever reason, people are hung up on it. It’s short-sided and it’s unfair.”
Johnson has seen first-hand the difference size makes on the recruiting trail. While Abbott twists in the wind, Freedom defensive end Dieugot Joseph will sign with FIU this Wednesday. At 6-foot-6, 230-pounds, Joseph has only played football for a couple of years and was good, but not a dominant player in high school.
Because he has the frame to develop into a monstrous end, coaches took a flier on Joseph.
“We’ve got totally different ends of the spectrum on our team,” Johnson said. “I love Dieugot, but at the end of the day, he’s being recruited on his potential…he’s a potential type guy whereas Derik has done it. He’s been there, he’s been productive, he’s led the team. He’s done everything you ever want out of a quarterback.”
Abbott, who has been Freedom’s starter since midway through his sophomore season, threw for 2,049 yards while completing 63 percent of his passes this past season and has at least drawn plenty of interest.
He was close to landing an offer from Toledo following a visit there during the summer, but the team filled up on its quarterback spots shortly after his trip.
Pittsburg was intrigued by Abbott, but coaching instability has seemingly ruled out that option.
“It’s been that kind of process,” Abbott said.
Abbott has been offered partial scholarships and verbal offers by teams from schools in the DII and NAIA classifications, but nothing concrete has emerged for him. He’s also received walk-on offers from schools like UCF.
Currently, Abbott has been talking to James Madison, Old Dominion, Appalachian State and Youngstown, as well as DII schools Indiana University of Pensylvania, California University of Pennsylvania, St. Cloud (Minn.) State and Florida Tech. DIII schools St. Olaf (Minn.) and Mount Union (Ohio) are also in the mix.
Abbott is hoping that interest from one of those schools will turn into an actual offer. He plans to continue calling any college coach who will listen in hopes of finding a home and will remain as upbeat and positive as possible.
Still, Abbott cannot help but feel slighted by the recruiting process. Since coaches wanting to keep holding his height against him, perhaps it’s more fitting to say that Abbott feels like he’s been shortchanged.
“It kind of leaves you wondering ‘why me?' I don’t understand what I did wrong."
Brendan Sonnone is the Sentinel's recruiting correspondent and can be reached at
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