Fourth and Long

He was bound for football stardom until that night at Notre Dame. Now Abram Elam struggles for redemption.

If Abram should misstep, it will no longer be Pees' problem. He left Kent in February to become linebacker coach for the New England Patriots. Abram is in the hands of Pees' successor, Doug Martin, who inherits a team that went an encouraging 5-7 last year, with an all-conference quarterback, Josh Cribbs, who was charged with marijuana trafficking in January.

"Being head coach is a lonely job," Martin says. "You become solely responsible for a hundred new children."

At an early-morning practice a day before spring break, Martin gathers his players like ducklings. He clears his throat.

Even as a youngster, Abram was pegged for football stardom.
Colby Katz
Even as a youngster, Abram was pegged for football stardom.
Above: Coach Budnyk is himself something of a football legend in Palm Beach County. As athletic director of Cardinal Newman High School, he just acquired his 275th career win.  


Right: His senior year, Abram was named Palm Beach County Player of the Year.
Above: Coach Budnyk is himself something of a football legend in Palm Beach County. As athletic director of Cardinal Newman High School, he just acquired his 275th career win.

Right: His senior year, Abram was named Palm Beach County Player of the Year.

"Listen," he says, "spring break is a dangerous time. Stay out of stupid situations. I do not want to hear about any of you getting drunk and making a fool out of yourselves. That's not what this team is about. This team is about trust and commitment and family."

As the players begin to disperse, Martin chastens them again. "Remember -- it's easy to get into a bad situation. It is not so easy to get out of it."

Throughout the speech, Abram keeps his gaze planted firmly downward.

When it's over, he walks off the field with Shannon Davis. Abram is not slated to start this season, and with only one year of eligibility remaining, his future is uncertain. But he remains hopeful, thinking perhaps, of four fat syllables that may one day unfurl themselves, like a flag, above Kent State's Dix Stadium.

A-bram E-lam, the announcer will scream.

He always did like the sound of that.

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