LAKELAND, Fla. — Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald‘s recruitment didn’t follow the same path as his fellow 2017 Kentucky signees. And his life before being a prized prospect was unique, too.
Abadi-Fitzgerald was born in Nigeria and came to the United States when he was 12, led by a hope for a good education. It just wasn’t clear then that football, a sport he had only seen in movies, would eventually lead to a scholarship.
The 6-foot-7, 267-pound defensive end prospect was unranked by 247Sports and Rivals partly because his recruitment primarily happened in a two-month span starting in December. Abadi-Fitzgerald ended up with seven offers with Florida and Kentucky being the most notable.
Kentucky quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw was one of the first coaches to target Abadi-Fitzgerald, and that early recognition paid off for the Wildcats.
SEC Country met with Abadi-Fitzgerald as part of the Next Generation series in which we’ll visit several signees in Kentucky’s 2017 class. Here’s part of our conversation with Abadi-Fitzgerald focusing on his recruitment.
Q: What are you focused on between now and when you get to campus?
A: I’m excited first of all, but a little nervous. I say that to everybody. Mentally, basically being a leader, being mentally tougher. I’m kind of new to the game so everything between now and when I get there is just getting better. Get myself ready for what’s to come.
Q: What was your introduction to the game and when did you first start playing it?
A: Freshman year. Back at my first school, Coral Springs Christian, my football coach talked me into it and then I joined the team. They didn’t have a great season that year. At first I was kind of shaky about it. It was kind of scary, but when I played, when I got hit a couple times, it wasn’t bad at all. I kind of enjoyed myself. From there it became a fun game.
Q: Are you still learning things about the game?
A: The only thing I know about it is the position I played. And the rules. Other people’s positions I have no clue.
Q: What about Kentucky stood out?
A: It was just welcoming and comfortable. Everybody there just made you feel at home. It was like, ‘Wow,’ I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to come to this place apart from it’s freezing. But they give you like the warmest jacket.
Q: You talked about Kentucky’s facilities, what about those impressed you?
A: It wasn’t even just the facility, it was what was in there basically — everything I needed. Got sore muscles? Here’s something for you. Massage your muscles before and after practice. There was a lounge, there was a dining hall. They made shakes for you right after you’re done working out. The locker room was pretty nice, too. Basically I could live there. I could sleep in there if I wanted to. Everything was right there. But it wasn’t just the facility, it was mainly the people. Everybody was so welcoming.
Q: If you had to pick, which school came in second?
A: Florida International. When I went there it was like, ‘If nothing else comes, this might be the place.’ But Kentucky was just one step ahead. Everything was one step ahead. Third was going to be South Florida. That’s what I was looking into to. That was my top-3, but they had other issues. The coach left and that kind of put us on hold. I didn’t know what was going on at that moment. That pretty much changed my mind. I had to move on to the people that were coming in at that moment. That would’ve been my top-3 right there.
Q: Did anything surprise you about the recruiting process? Any funny stories that stood out?
A: The players, they always give you hosts and they take you out. FIU, they took me out at night and we went out on South Beach. There were the nice cars and the restaurants.
Check back later this summer for a full feature from our Next Generation visit with Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald.
More from our Next Generation series
- Position promise gave Wildcats an edge with JaVonte Richardson
- Tyrell Ajian got the ‘gut feeling’ he needed from Kentucky’s coaches
- Big Ten schools stood out, but Wildcats proved best for LB Alex King
- Gone from a dying city, Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson finds life in Lexington
- Top Kentucky football signee Lynn Bowden not focused on comparisons