Patriots

Patriots

LOWELL, Mass. -- Abiola Aborishade was mostly silent as he stood in front of a group of Sports International Football Camp attendees at UMass Lowell on Tuesday.

He was a guest counselor for the day, but so were Patriots running back Tyler Gaffney and Patriots corner Justin Coleman, and most of the attention was focused on them. Gaffney spoke about being drafted and his experience going through the NFL Scouting Combine. Coleman recalled what he considered his best game as a rookie, a Divisional Round win over the Chiefs in January.

Though neither player has been a pro for long, in campers' eyes they had the cachet that came along with occupying coveted spots on the Patriots roster. 

Aborishade was known simply for wanting one. 

His journey -- detailed here by MassLive's Kevin Duffy -- went viral in May after he spent the previous month standing outside Gillette Stadium looking for a tryout. He dutifully made is way to Route 1 in Foxboro nearly every day, early enough to see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick drive into work, and he waited there, his cleats at the ready.

Newsrooms across the country quickly picked up on the story of the former Division 3 receiver out of UMass-Dartmouth who was spending time in between shifts at Enterprise on the side of a road, holding a sign that read, "talented hardworking athlete hoping for a chance to prove myself."

 

Aborishade's name found its way into publications as far away as the San Jose Mercury News and onto websites of national outlets like ABCNews.com and FoxSports.com. Local television stations, including CSN, caught up with him as well. 

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown tweeted his support for Aborishade to his more than half-a-million followers, and Patriots corner Malcolm Butler posted to Instagram a picture of Aborishade with a caption that read in part, "this is the attitude you must have if you really want something."

Since then, nearly three months after he began his waiting game, Aborishade is still making his way to Foxboro almost every day. He's still waiting. 

"I'm still there," he said. "I was there [Monday]. It was actually one of the nicer days because the weather wasn't too bad. I saw a couple players. I saw [Julian] Edelman, and I saw Josh McDaniels. It's pretty cool. It's nice to see that some of the guys are still in there even during their break. It shows that they're still working hard and trying to be the best that they can be even in the offseason."

Many players and coaches have spent the last few weeks away, making the most of their time off before training camp begins later this month. But Aborishade continued to show up despite the dwindling number of team personnel that drove by him on a daily basis. 

"I don't really get a vacation," he said, "because I'm not where I want to be yet. I gotta keep working."

There is a small measure of celebrity that has come along with being the subject of a story that burned as brightly and quickly as Aborishade's did this spring. He says he's been noticed at Texas Roadhouse in Norwood. He says he's been recognized by kids he's never met. And Patriots players now know his face. A few have even stopped to chat with him before they continue on their drives away from the stadium.

"If I could just put it in one word, it'd just be dedication," Coleman said of Aborishade. "Every morning, I drive to Gillette and I see him on the corner. First I was like, 'Who's this guy just standing on the corner, holding a sign every day?' 

"I finally realized, he really wants an opportunity he really wants to get that chance. Not many people get that opportunity. For him to just stay out there and show that he really wants it that bad, it shows you great determination. He has a drive in him that a lot of other people don't have."

 

Aborishade appreciates it when players stop to talk, or when he's recognized around town, or when reporters ask him about what he's doing. But it's all still a little odd to him. 

"I feel like I haven't accomplished anything yet," he said. "But at the same time, I know I need this media coverage to get noticed. Coming from a small school, UMass-Dartmouth, a D-III program, not many scouts or media are coming to look at athletes over there. And I feel like this is an opportunity for me to actually branch out and show the world what my goals are, you know?"

The goal right now is to keep at it. Though a tryout is highly unlikely, he plans to stick with his approach. 

He's tried to use social media. He says he's tried an agent. Those avenues haven't worked so he'll continue to wait.

"Honestly, since I was a kid, this is what I've wanted to do," Aborishade said. "That's motivation in and of itself. Not quitting. I don't like to quit anything I do. I want to finish it to the end, I want to work as hard as I possibly can to actually achieve that goal. This is one of those things. A lot of people have said they want to play in the NFL, a lot of them have already quit, they've already given up.

"I want to show that I'm willing to work hard in whatever it is, if it's special teams, if it's standing there and watching, whatever it is. I'm willing to do any of it. Football is my passion. It's what I've wanted to do my whole life."