Abraham Joins Familiar Faces on Illini Defensive Staff

Smith, Nickerson and Abraham all were together in Tampa Bay in late 90s

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has completed his coaching staff with the hiring of Donnie Abraham as a defensive assistant coach. Abraham joins the Fighting Illini from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he was defensive coordinator from 2015-16. He will work primarily with the safeties at Illinois.

“I’m very pleased to have Donnie Abraham join our coaching staff,” Smith said. “Donnie was a great player during his long NFL career, and has gained some terrific experience coaching high school football in the Tampa area and at IMG. His background with our staff here at Illinois will be extremely helpful as we continue to implement our defensive philosophies. Donnie is an excellent communicator and will help in our recruiting efforts in the state of Florida and other places he has connections. I’m very pleased to be able to bring someone of his caliber to our staff.”

Abraham played nine seasons in the NFL as a cornerback, including six in Tampa Bay (1996-2001) when Lovie Smith was on the defensive staff (linebackers coach) and current Illini defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson was wreaking havoc as a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Buccaneers. Abraham, Smith and Nickerson were all together in Tampa Bay for four seasons (1996-99). Abraham also spent three seasons with the New York Jets (2002-04), before retiring from the NFL.

In nine total NFL seasons, Abraham played in 132 games, made 442 tackles, had 38 interceptions, 131 passes defended, three forced fumbles, two sacks and scored five touchdowns. He led the league in interceptions in 1999 with seven, including two pick-sixes, and played in the 2000 Pro Bowl game. During the six seasons that Abraham was in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers went the to the playoffs four times and won the NFC Central in 1999.

Following his nine-year NFL career, he turned to coaching, mostly at the high school level – including stints at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, Fla. (DB coach 2005-08, 2012), Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, Fla. (head coach 2009-10), Clearwater High School in Clearwater, Fla. (head coach 2013-2014) and IMG Academy (2015-16).

Abraham also spent two seasons with the Tampa Bay Storm Arena League team, coaching defensive backs in 2011-12.

Abraham played at East Tennessee State University from 1991-95, earning first-team All-Southern Conference honors in 1995. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from ETSU in 1996 and was drafted in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay (71st overall).

A native of Orangeburg, South Carolina, Abraham and his wife, Tunisia, were married in 1997. They have three children Devin (20), Alivia (17) and Micah (16). Devin is a safety for the University of South Florida football team.


Bachelor’s in Business Management, East Tennessee State University, 1996

Playing Experience:
East Tennessee State, 1991-95
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1996-2001
New York Jets, 2002-04

Coaching Experience:
2015-16 – IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla. (Defensive Coordinator)
2013-14 – Clearwater High School, Clearwater, Fla. (Head Coach)
2012 – East Lake High School, Tarpon Springs, Fla. (Defensive Backs)
2011-12 – Tampa Bay Storm, Arena League (Defensive Backs)
2009-10 – Gibbs High School, St. Petersburg, Fla. (Head Coach)
2005-08 – East Lake High School, Tarpon Springs, Fla. (Defensive Backs)