Former Bucs DB Donnie Abraham will re-unite with Lovie Smith at Illinois

Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire


The Buccaneers fraternity/network continues to extend, as news came out Monday night that former Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith will be hiring a former defensive back from late 90’s-early 2000’s to his staff at the University of Illinois.

Donnie Abraham, a former third round pick by the Bucs, who played six seasons in Tampa and made the 2000 Pro Bowl, will now be part of coaching the secondary in Champaign. had the story first Monday:

Abraham finished his nine year career in ’04, after playing three seasons with the N.Y. Jets. After that, he became an assistant coach and later the head coach at Gibbs High School in St. Pete. Later, he was an assistant with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football league before becoming head coach of Clearwater High school from 2013-15.  He spent last season as the defensive coordinator at the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Abraham was a critical part of the “back end” of the Bucs defense of the late 90’s that had Ronde Barber at the other corner and John Lynch in the middle, while names like Derrick Brooks, Hardy Nickerson, Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice battled up front. He finished with 38 interceptions in his career and had 3 TDs. Abraham, and that group were a game away from the Super Bowl in 1999, as the Bucs stellar D held the Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” to just 11 points in their NFC Championship Game loss in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, after two losing seasons as Bucs head coach, the former Bears coach Smith became a college head coach for the first time ever, last year taking over the struggling Illini program in the Big Ten. He hired his former linebacker, Nickerson, who had been with him on staff with the Bucs and previously with the Bears, to be his new defensive coordinator. Illinois still struggled to a 3-9 season in 2016.

Obviously, the trust and bond of the 90’s in “Buc-land,” when Lovie was the linebackers coach with Nickerson in his room and Abraham on the same defense was critical to this move, now.

And Donnie, Lovie, Hardy and Illinois will visit Raymond James Stadium to play USF in a prime time Friday night game in September.

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