By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky junior defensive lineman Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald returned to Lexington from Florida at the end of May and his father, Steve Fitzgerald, says the COVID-19 issues may actually have helped him.
“He was recovering from shoulder surgery, but now he is caught up and ready to go,” Steve Fitzgerald said.
The UK junior’s father said new defensive line coach Anwar Stewart has made a favorable impression with his son in their limited contact.
“He likes his style a lot and says he’s a little emotional, which Abule likes,” Steve Fitzgerald said. “It’s a big year for him. I am just anxious to see if he can take that next step. It was a big step last year just to get consistently on the field even in a limited role (he played in all 13 games last year). He has grown so much confidence-wise from that.
“But even if he had never got on the field this has all still been an extremely positive experience for him and our family.”
The 6-6, 280-pound Abule came to the United States from Nigeria at age 12 hoping to be a college basketball player and eventually was adopted by the Fitzgeralds. Steve Fitzgerald is a high school basketball coach but Abule’s senior season he joined the football team at Victory Christian High School, caught UK’s eye eventually and signed with the Cats.
His father is not worried about the UK junior breaking COVID-19 protocol.
“He is a perfectionist. He has an OCD type personality. This has messed with him mentally. I know he will follow everything the coaches tell him,” Steve Fitzgerald said. “He goes straight home, stays away from everybody. I feel safe with him there and they get tested at least every two weeks.”
The recent racial unrest nationally left both Abule and his brother — who also was adopted by the Fitzgeralds and joined the family that already had five children — perplexed.
“It was the first time they had really seen the impact of this and he’s had a hard time processing it all,” Steve Fitzgerald said.
Steve Fitzgerald said Aaron Hogue, multi-area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has helped the UK junior understand his feelings.
“Abule is an over thinker at times,” Steve Fitzgerald said. “He has spent a lot of time with Aaron and Aaron has also set up him with some folks. I think Abule is in a good place today and I am really appreciative of what Aaron has done for him.”