Jack Abraham said he was told in 2012 by a quarterback coach after participating in a camp at the University of North Carolina that he would never be a Division I quarterback.
Fast forward six years to last season and not only did Abraham play Division I quarterback, he led all Division I in completion percentage, completing a school record 73.1percent of his passes during his first season at Southern Miss.
Abraham has followed up last year’s record setting performance with an outstanding year to date. He ranks eighth in completion percentage (70.1) and 15th in passing yards (2,634). Abraham is one of five quarterbacks (LSU’s Joe Burrow, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Washington State’s Anthony Gordon and Iowa State’s Brock Prudy) in the top 15in both categories. Abraham passed for the second most yards (463) in Southern Miss history in a 47-42 victory over Troy and broke his own school record with 17 consecutive completions. The Athletic named Abraham the Conference USA Midseason Offensive Player of the Year.
“Jack is really maturing, and he’s running the offense better. With a guy like Jack, I think you’re just going to see him get better and better,” Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson said. “I said a long time ago that he kind of reminded me of (former Southern Miss great and current backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers) Nick (Mullens)when he first got here, but he was a little bit younger. That only comes with time, and I was only here with Nick towards the end. He’s a guy that’s just maturing and getting better and better. He’s a student of the game. Jack eats and sleeps football. Hopefully, he’ll continue on his progression, and he’ll get better every game.”
Let’s go back to 2012. Abraham was entering the ninth grade at Oxford High and he and his dad, Michael, decided to go to several college football camps the summer before his freshman year. One of those stops was North Carolina.
“The quarterback coach at North Carolina just said I wouldn’t make at the Division I level,” Jack Abraham said. “It was a dream of mine to play Division I quarterback and for him to say that really hurt.”
But it didn’t stop Abraham from dreaming and believing he could be a Division I quarterback one day. In fact, just the opposite happened. It inspired him. After coming back home from the camp at North Carolina, Abraham typed up what the coach said, printed it and taped it on his bathroom mirror to give him inspiration to work hard and reach his goal of playing Division I quarterback.
It wasn’t easy. He led Oxford High to three straight state championship appearances, losing all three, and on top of that breaking his collarbone on the game’s final play as a high school senior. Because of his injury, Abraham missed playing in the Mississippi-Alabama High School All-Star game.
Not any SEC programs came calling for Abraham, despite his high school success. Get this. He passed for 57 touchdowns with only six interceptions as a senior. But Abraham, listed at 6 feet tall, wasn’t highly recruited. Does this story sound like a certain quarterback from Brandon who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars? Yes, Abraham’s journey was sort of like Gardner Minshew’s. Tulane offered Abraham and he verbally committed to Tulane. But Tulane coach Curtis Johnson was dismissed after the 2015 season. Louisiana Tech lost a quarterback commitment, looked Abraham’s way and offered him a scholarship. He accepted. Meanwhile, Jay Hopson took the job as head coach at Southern Miss and recruited Abraham, but he honored his commitment to Tech. Abraham graduated in December and enrolled at Tech in January. He went through spring along with a lot of other young quarterbacks and threw a touchdown pass in the spring game. But he was redshirted that fall and decided it was best for his future to find a new home. He transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College where he passed for 2,949 yards and 23touchdowns and led the Rangers to the state championship, once again losing. This time to powerful East Mississippi CC by one point, 67-66. Abraham threw for 487 yards and five touchdowns in the loss.
Only after Tate Whatley, a highly recruited quarterback, suffered a knee injury did Southern Miss come calling for Abraham. The Golden Eagles offered and Abraham accepted. He came to Hattiesburg with three years of eligibility.
Abraham came in behind several quarterbacks, but because of injuries and transfers, he was the starter in the season opener against Jackson State. He completed 21 of 27 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns and was on his way to an incredible season.
“Playing at Southern Miss has been great,” Abraham said. “After leaving Louisiana Tech, I’m glad I went the jucoroute because it gave me my confidence back. We’ve been up and down for the past two years, but we are getting better. I’ve been fortunate to have some quality receivers and a solid offensive line.”
Abraham’s intelligence for making on-the-field decisions sets him apart from others.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been around one like him,” said first-year Southern Miss offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, who has been coaching for 14 years. “He’s one of the smartest human beings I’ve ever been around first of all, not just in football. I mean he’s a high GPA guy, wants to be a dentist (following his father and grandfather). So he studies all the time, I think that carries over.”
Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz, who recruited Abraham to Ruston, knows how special Abraham is.
“We knew Jack was a great player, watching him develop throughout high school. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Mississippi,” Holtz said. “We recruited him, he was here, wanted to play, and he opted to find another school – which I hated because it was never the case that he wasn’t wanted here. We thought he was going to be a special player, and he is. He’s continuing to mature as a quarterback. He’s always been smart, very accurate and a quick release. All that is really showing now that he’s got a couple years of college football under his belt.”
Of course, Abraham’s high school coach, Johnny Hill, isn’t surprised at his former quarterback’s success. Hill coached for four decades, 22 years at Oxford, and retired in 2015. Abraham’s last game in high school was Hill’s last game to coach.
“I’ve had a lot of great quarterbacks and Jack is in that group of great ones,” said Hill, who won a state championship at Warren Central in 1988 and was state runner-up at Oxford four times. “Jack is a special player, but also a great young man. His daddy has been working with him since he was in the second grade. Jack has a quick release and is very accurate. He can throw it into a tight window and can throw the corner route as good as anyone you will ever see. He can also throw the flair route perfectly where the running back doesn’t have to break stride. It’s not an easy throw, but Jack is great at it.”
Lee Roberts, one of the most accurate quarterbacks in Southern Miss history, is now the analyst with play-by-play man John Cox on the Golden Eagle radio broadcasts and has had a good view of all of Abraham’s games at Southern Miss for the past two seasons. Roberts held one of the oldest passing records at Southern Miss (13 consecutive completions vs. East Carolina in 1996) before Abraham broke it with 15 last season. Roberts still holds the school record with the highest passing efficiency in a season (155.25 in 1996) and is tied for the most touchdown passes in a game (five vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in 1998).
“Jack is a student of the game and has great chemistry with his wide receivers,” Roberts said. “He has good awareness and great vision. Jack moves around in the pocket, can avoid the rush and extend the play. He has a lot of positives, is a great leader and competitor and his teammates believe in him.”
Abraham completed 17 of 22 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns without an interception and led Southern Miss to one of its most impressive victories since he took over as a starting quarterback last season, a 37-2 decision over the defending Conference USA champions, Alabama-Birmingham. Abraham didn’t throw for a lot of yards like he did against Troy and it wasn’t the most accurate game this season either, but he moved his team down the field time and time again.
Southern Miss, 6-3 overall and 5-1 in C-USA West Division, travel to University of Texas-San Antonio, 4-5 and 3-2, in a conference game at 5 p.m. on ESPN+. The Golden Eagles are looking to win their seventh game and make a case for themselves to get in a bowl game. Some projections have Southern Miss going to the New Orleans Bowl or Birmingham Bowl. Wherever the Eagles go, they can thank one of the most accurate passers in the country for getting them there.