Los Angeles Times

Orlando Freedom QB Derik Abbott signs with DI-AA Robert Morris

Freedom quarterback Derik Abbott signed with Robert Morris University this week, ending what has been an exhausting and frustrating recruiting process.

“Finally finding a place is great,” Abbott said.

Abbott (5-11, 175) did not receive his first collegiate offer until after National Signing Day.

Most schools that had interest in him were scared away because he lacked prototypical quarterback size. He has the technique, the pedigree and the instincts that NCAA Division I-A coaches were looking for.

Just not the height.

Pittsburgh and some MAC schools were close to pulling the trigger and offering, but coaching changes and unforeseen commitments prevented that from happening.

Abbott called the past year Murphy’s law. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong.

So when he visited Robert Morris, a Division I-AA school in Moon Township, Pa., two weekends ago, Abbott was cautiously optimistic about the trip.

But after touring the campus and talking to the coaches, he realized he had finally found his home.

“I’m not sure if it could have been a better fit at all,” said Abbott, who also had offers from Mount Union, Mars Hill, Evangel, Webber and a preferred walk-on spot at Middle Tennessee State.

It actually is uncanny how good of a fit Robert Morris is for Abbott. From its location — 30 minutes away from Pittsburgh, his birthplace and home to dozens of friends and relatives — to its coaching staff, everything about Robert Morris screams Derik Abbott.

Even the mascot, the Colonials, and the school colors (red, white and blue) are reminiscent of the Freedom Patriots.

“Even if Robert Morris had come along in the year, I would have considered them,” Abbott said. “Everything about them represents me perfectly.”

Size won’t be an issue for the Robert Morris coaching staff, which is big for Abbott. RM head coach Joe Walton was the head man for the New York Jets from 1983-89 and also was an offensive coordinator in the 1970s and 1990s.

Two of his former pupils are legendary NFL quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Fran Tarkenton. Both players were just one inch taller than Abbott.

For Abbott, who is ranked No. 34 on the Sentinel’s 2012 Central Florida Super60 and threw for 2,049 yards, 19 touchdowns (to five interceptions) and completed 63 percent of his passes as a senior, it’s nice to find a staff that doesn’t care if he reaches the magical six-foot mark.

But Abbott knows the questions surrounding his height won’t go away now that he’s in college.

“Of course that’s always going to be a topic of issue,” he said. “Height is always going to be an issue. It’s one of those things were people are going to find excuses for you to fail. If you let that get to your head, you’re going to fail.”

That is something he accepted a while ago.

“There was a phase where I was really upset about it,” Abbott said. “The height thing, I got over it pretty quickly. I accepted the fact that I’m only 5-11.”

Abbott will talk about his decision on the Facebook-accessed Come Up Radio Show (hosted by former Freedom teammate John Borgela) online Thursday at around 3 p.m.


Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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