Understand one thing: Andrew Abbott did not hit the lottery or strike straight red 7s or find a pot of gold.
He did not get lucky, and he does not have a four-leaf clover.
When UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel decided to reward the third-year UCLA cornerback with a scholarship earlier this week, Abbott did not hit the jackpot. He was rewarded for a job well-done.
“I put in a lot of work, meeting with my teammates, in the film room, even last season, and even before then, in high school, I put a lot of work in, and it all culminated in this scholarship,” Abbott said. “But I’m not done yet, I’ve still got more to do.”
It’s that dogged determination that has led Abbott from a scarcely recruited Mater Dei High senior to UCLA’s starting nickel back.
Abbott received no scholarship offers out of high school, colleges scared off by his slight, 5-10, 178-pound frame. He was down-trodden, the stages of grief setting in, finally realizing he wasn’t going to get the ride. He considered walking-on at Oregon, but that was too far.
“‘I’m not going to get one, I might as well walk-on somewhere, where do I have the best shot at playing?'” Abbott recalls thinking. “I was sold on it once coach Neuheisel told me I was in. I was here the next day.”
And once he was in Westwood, he started to make his move.
He wasn’t going to settle with a walk-on’s role, simply going through the motions, happy to be on the team, hoping to maybe get a snap here or there.
“I knew I could be a great player when I came here,” Abbott said. “Yeah, I am a late bloomer, but that’s what pushed me so hard in the offseason, in high school. Every day I think about that. Not many teams took a shot on me, Coach Neuheisel gave me that shot, so I come out here every day and I give him everything I’ve got.”
The coaches noticed quickly. As a redshirt freshman walk-on in 2009, Abbott appeared in every game, making 22 tackles for the season.
“It’s neat when a guy can earn it,” UCLA defensive backs coach Tim Hundley said. “Every year there’s somebody who’s really deserving of it, it seems like. Recruiting is not an exact science. The history of recruiting is filled with guys who you took late or you didn’t take at all who end up being big-time players. Kids that say I’ll prove you wrong, and come out to do it, it’s great to reward those guys.”
Sometimes it felt like it would never happen, like he would always be the one extra guy on the roster, good enough to contribute, not good enough to see the fruits of his labor.
“At times it was tough; at times I was like, ‘Man, I should have one. I should have one,'” Abbott said. “But my mom, she kept me real grounded. One thing she told me, ‘When God says move, it’s going to happen.'”
It finally happened for Abbott on Tuesday.
But he didn’t hit the jackpot.